Physical Therapy and Exercise to Combat Sitting

Research indicates that our sedentary culture has detrimental effects on our health. Learn how exercises, knowing what to eat and when, and physical therapy can help you combat the negative effects of sitting.

Physical therapy can help you get moving to counteract negative health effects.

Chances are, you’re reading this article while seated. More than 75 percent of all Americans have jobs that require them to sit for more than half of their waking hours each day, not counting the time they spend commuting to and from work and the time spent sitting on the sofa in front of the television at home.

This sedentary lifestyle has been proven to lead to a number of adverse health effects, such as:

  • A reduction in blood flow to the brain
  • A decrease in the enzymes that metabolize fat
  • Degeneration of the muscles
  • Shortening of the hamstring muscles, which may lead to lower back pain, neck pain, and organ damage
  • Chronic fatigue and stress
  • Heightened risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and premature death

Research has found that long periods of sitting increase a person’s risk for “sitting disease,” the term used to describe the negative effects that a sedentary lifestyle can have on a person’s metabolism. The good news: Although most of us can’t quit our desk jobs, research suggests that even 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise can undo the damage done by an overly sedentary lifestyle.

How to Combat a Sedentary Work Life

Many people exercise during their lunch hour, and while getting an hour of exercise in the middle of the day is better than nothing, it still leaves seven hours of sedentary time. If your job requires you to sit at a desk most of the day, there are ways you can counteract the harmful effects of sitting.

If your company has a wellness program, take advantage of it. If not, recommend that one be started.

What you eat and when makes a difference. It helps to make breakfast your largest meal of the day and avoid carbohydrate-rich foods when you are not active. Don’t eat lunch at your desk and remember to drink at least 40 to 60 ounces of water a day.

Even if you can’t block out enough time for a full workout, there are ways to incorporate more activity into your workday:

  • Use a standing desk (or alternatively a high table or counter) and try to stand when talking on the phone.
  • Propose walk-and-talk meetings as opposed to gathering in a conference room.
  • Do chair squats – stand up and sit down 10 times for every 30 minutes spent sitting.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Practice a variety of range-of-motion exercises, such as glute and hamstring stretches and neck and shoulder rolls.
  • Ask your boss about installing treadmills at workstations.
  • Take a brisk, 15-minute walk every afternoon to boost your productivity late in the day.
  • If you take a bus or train to work, get off a stop early and walk several blocks to and from work. If you drive, park farther away so you can walk for a few minutes before and after work.

Physical activity is also associated with improved mental health. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals of the central nervous system that interact with receptors in the brain to reduce a person’s perception of pain, boost their energy level, and improve their ability to sleep.

Physical Therapy Helps Overcome Sitting Disease

Physical therapy has proven to be highly effective in overcoming the negative effects of too much sitting and can help increase mobility and motion. Using physical therapy to strengthen and stretch muscles can help you get back to feeling pain-free. With reduced pain and better mobility, our patients find it easier to become and remain active.

Our therapists can help you understand how your musculoskeletal system works, how to maintain proper posture, and can guide you through tailored exercises and stretches targeted to your challenges.

Are you interested in breaking away from your sedentary lifestyle? Visit a CORA clinic today to learn more about how getting out of your chair a little more often can improve your overall health.

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