Monday, February 2, 2015

Sitting vs. Standing

With our lives becoming more sedentary, having 9-5 jobs requiring the majority of the population to sit for an extended period of time without really getting up. This goes hand and hand with the posture article I wrote last week. Sitting does a lot to the body and metabolism. It causes you to hunch, lose abdominal stability, creates digestion/breathing problems, and not to mention that when you sit your body slows your metabolic rate down because muscles are not being used. Naturally we as humans need to move more. But, there is the opposite research done for people who stand too much. Just like sitting jobs are detrimental to your well-being, standing all the time may have similar effects.

I found this topic very interesting. According to the CDC, Americans are directed to move for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity a day. However, 30-60 minutes is highly recommended. This doesn't really sound like a whole lot considering they use walking to your car, up the stairs, and for a casual walk part of that 30 minutes to be active. Unfortunately, many Americans do not even reach the 30 minute mark daily.

Let's look at the differences between sitting and standing on a daily basis and what it does to your health.

Sitters

-People who sit for more than 4 hours per day are considered to lead a sedentary lifestyle. Even 1 hour of extended sitting causes the blood to collect in your legs.

Sitting uses less energy than standing and it helps to stabilize the body. So when you need to perform fine motor tasks like driving, computer work, creating detailed drawings or fine micro-surgery sitting is advised so your energy is directed towards that task.

A sedentary lifestyle or sitting for more than 4 hours can cause a lot of problems in your body. First off it changes the biochemical process in lipase activity (an enzyme involved in fat metabolism) and in glucose metabolism that leads to the deposit of fats in adipose tissue. Extensive sitting also relates to heart disease risks, so people are advocating standing while at work because it uses more muscle activity and burns about 20% more calories on average than sitting. Sitting too much leads to neck stiffness especially if you are hunched over a computer all day. It is very difficult to realize that your posture is suffering if you are not making yourself cognitively aware of it. Sitting too long can lead to muscle loss and restless legs from the collection of blood in the lower extremities. Rounding your back causes extra stress to be put on your lower back which leads to pain all over your body.

There are many risks associated with sitting too long such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Premature death is also associated with a sedentary lifestyle which can cut off 3 or more years of your life!

Standing is not the go to answer either. People who stand for more than 4 hours a day is also considered unhealthy.Standing requires 20% more energy than sitting which puts greater strain on the circulatory system and on the legs and feet. Prolonged standing at work also increases the risks of varicose veins. The performance of many fine motor skills also is less good when people stand rather than sit. Standing for too long has similar effects just like sitting. Standing for an extended period of time can cause neck pain, lower back pain, pronation of the feet, heel spurs and plantar fascitis. Standing also affects your ability to complete fine motor skills because your body is using the energy to keep your body from falling over. Standing too long can cause major issues with pumping blood around the body, this is called chronic venous insufficiency.

So what is better?? Sitting, standing or both?? According to research, a combination of the two is the best for overall health. But due to jobs and conditions when working, standing or sitting may not be an option.

If you are a sitter:
-Check your posture
-Walk on your lunch break, to get copies, to deliver a message or to just get up every 30-45 minutes.
-Ask for a convertible desk that can be used in both a sitting and standing position.
-Use a fitness application to track your movement throughout the day.

If you stand:
-Learn how to stretch with a purpose to correct posture and relieve stress.
-Make sure to wear insoles that help your posture and provide cushioning. You need to find insoles that fit your activity needs both in the gym and work.
-Consider taking breaks every few hours to rest your legs.

Overall, your health takes precedence over everything. You need to make smart decisions that lead to your best performance overall. There is nothing worse than having a stiff neck or back pain from hunching over a computer to do work or to be standing all day and have sore legs. Treat your body like the temple it is !!!

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