Most of my clients, as a yoga teacher, are office workers: they sit all day. The majority of the population work at a desk all day. A typical day for many office workers goes something like this: We sit down for breakfast, sit on the bus commuting to work, sit in front of a computer in the morning, sit to eat lunch, sit again at our workstation again in the afternoon, sit on the bus on the way home, sit to eat dinner, and watch TV on the couch until we head to bed. Dr. Chris Raynor, a local Ottawa-Gatineau orthopaedic surgeon and personal trainer estimates sitting takes up on average 15.5 hours per day. In addition he adds a 30-minute exercise period and eight hours for sleep to make up 24.
That’s a lot of time sitted !!! (are you all standing now ? lol ) What’s the problem ? Why do we only start talking about that now, we have been working in a sitting position for decades. Right. The reason is simple, scientist I’ve asked themselves the question, why is there more obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes to name only a few, what’s the link between those diseases ? Waistlines of the young and the old were expanding at a fast pace, we all have seen the increase of fat kids, isn’t it sad ? By comparison to the lifestyles of the past generations, researchers made an eye-opening discovery. And here comes the “sitting desease” : Studies have shown a link between sitting time and chronic diseases such as diabetes, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cardiovascular disease. The risk and instances of physical disease increase with age; but sitting time also increases with age. Research shows that even when taking this into consideration, there is a higher incidence of disease associated with sitting.
Think about it: in the era of your grand-parents and great-grand-parents, most of people worked on their feet, not in an office, and moved all the time, all day long. What’s change ? Technology. Everything in our modern life comes from a need to do less, make our lives easier, less effort, and do it faster than we used to do. Moving less, sitting more.
Those who sit throughout the day have a higher blood glucose and insulin level than people who exercise or move throughout the day. Glycemia, caused by high blood glucose, is associated with a number of problems such as damaged organs, fatigue, excessive thirst, excessive hunger, and poor wound healing. None of the organs in your body function properly with a high sugar level. (Do you recognize yourself in those problems ?) Insulin is the hormone that tells your body where to put that sugar so it doesn’t just sit in your bloodstream.
“If you have a high blood glucose level you need a lot of insulin in order to deal with it,” says Dr Raynor. “If you have high blood glucose you need high insulin. High insulin leads to diabetes, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and weight gain.”
Hour upon hour spent planted on your tush means your body tissues and organs and metabolism aren’t working properly, aren’t engaged the way the were “designed” for. The longer you sit, the less efficient your entire body’s systems become. “The metabolism of fats and glucose gets disrupted, and you’re not burning many calories”, says Dr Mark Tremblay, the director of The Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa; “your heart, lungs and muscles go into hibernation mode and they atrophy. Over time, they decay.
Lymph doesn’t circulate properly, digestion process is restricted, pancreas cannot process efficiently without motion, insulin isn’t used effectively and instead of being absorbed by your body, glucose build up in your blood. Cholesterol increase as well. Which leads to type 2 diabetes, and other problems like heart attacks or strokes. Oh yeah, it wouldn’t be complete without adding those possible consequences : Obesity, inflammation, water retention, increased weight gain particularly around your mass center.
As the workday progresses we tend to slump more. This has a detrimental effect on our spinal column and our lungs. The rib cage and thorax compress and we’re less able to expand our lungs and take in oxygen. The brain isn’t getting enough oxygen and can’t function as efficiently (that’s one of the reason you feel tired). Your sedentary lifestyle creates poor posture, curvature in the spine and protruding discs in the neck and back.
BUT I REGULARLY EXERCISE !
Exercising 1-2 hours a day, doesn’t matter the level of intensity, will not have an impact against 22 hours of being sedentary. You shouldn’t abandon your daily amazing workout, on the contrary, but you should take your health a little bit more seriously.
I just love this quote from Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia: “Stand up, sit less, move more, more often”. Stand up in your office to talk on the phone, do squat watching tv (yes learn to squat, learn to love to squat and learn to do it properly), walk to the printer (pick the one at the opposite end of your floor), drink more, stay hydrated (you’ll have to go pee more often and walk to the bathroom even more), change posture, don’t sit too long, don’t stand too long, alternate your crossed leg (if you imperatively cross your leg while sitting), move your hips, your extremities, use the stairs, stretch (often!), lift weight even small weight.
So what about standing workstation ?
I have one at work, I love it, but I still have a chair (ok I have a ball chair). Replacing sitting with standing is only marginally better for your health. You’re still in one position if you stand to work, it’s much better to change your position throughout the day. If you can alternate your workstation between standing to sitting it’s marginally better, but movement is the best.
So yoga teacher ? Yogis and yoginis, what should we do in our yoga space about this ? How to receive those individuals in your yoga space, and treat them properly according to their body limitation due to sedentarity and poor body posture ?
To be continued…
You want to know more, follow my blog for Part 2.
Credit Dr. Chris Raynor’s interview
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