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Are You Sitting Too Much?

For many people, the answer to this question is yes. We sit while we drive, we sit in class, we sit while we binge on Netflix and many of us sit at a desk for work all day. On average, Americans sit for eight hours per day and do not meet the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous daily physical activity. Research shows that sitting too much can have negative effects on our bodies and our health.

Physical activity is a crucial component to maintaining good health. It has long been proven that regular activity increases stamina, improves the way our bodies function and maintains a happy and healthy mind. So, what can sitting too much and not enough movement add up to?

Some of the overarching problems associated with sitting are organ damage, muscle degeneration, a bad back, strained neck, sore shoulders and a foggy brain. One of the major organs damaged by prolonged sitting is the heart, showing a higher likelihood of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, an increased chance of diabetes and heart disease. As far as muscle degeneration, a indicator that you may be sitting for too long is tight hips. When we sit for extended periods of time we are not extending our hip flexor muscles, therefore they become shorter, tighter and have a more limited range of motion.

We have all been told since the beginning of time to sit up straight and it’s time to heed that warning. When we hunch over our desks or slouch on the couch, we strain our necks, backs and shoulders leading to pain and possibly long-term problems, such as harming the cervical vertebrae in our necks or being put at a greater risk for herniated lumbar disks. Here’s a detailed look at how to properly sit up straight.

The Foundation’s research report, Her Life Depends On It III, shows that participation in athletics is linked to improved academic performance. Contrary to the notion that physical activity depletes physical and mental energy, participating in physical activity and sports can lead to better grades and fewer disciplinary problems. When our bodies are active they pump fresh blood and oxygen and release lots of brain and mood boosting chemicals. On the other hand, when we sit for too long everything in the body slows down, including our brain function leading to less productivity.

Time to…get moving!

It’s important to find something you enjoy doing so that you’re more inclined to stick with it. Or, if finding time is an issue, schedule workouts or walks into your calendar just as you would an important meeting or event. Slip more movement into your day-to-day routine by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, stand during phone conversations or go for a walk during your lunch break. You can even make it social by inviting a co-worker to step out with you or join a weekly running group. Try standing up and stretching during commercial breaks or sitting on something wobbly to activate your core, and practice sitting up straight. Just remember to stay committed to blocking out time for you.

We all sit but it is important to maintain a balance, as always, and take care of our bodies by moving, stretching and staying active. By staying active we promote a healthy body, steady mind and can continue to excel in our work, our studies, and anything else we dedicate ourselves to accomplish.