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Why Sitting at Your Desk All Day is Ruining Your LifePosted by: Function Physio

Sitting for extended periods of time has been linked to a variety of medical concerns ranging from obesity to muscular deficiencies to cardiovascular health. Ideally, you would spend much of your day up and actively moving about; however if you have a desk job, this is not necessarily possible.

Spending much of your day in a sedentary state compounds the negative effects of any “sitting time” you spend in your free time. In fact, one study demonstrated that adults who spend more than four hours sitting down in front of a television or computer exhibited a 125% greater risk of incurring heart disease or a heart attack.

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The working schedules that we have created for ourselves as a society have led to many working adults spending over half of their day sitting down. Our bodies were not designed to be idle for such extended periods of time. Here are just a few of the negative side effects of sitting at your desk all day:

Sitting all day makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight

Your body burns far fewer calories when sitting down than it does from performing even leisurely movements. Regular exercise alone is not even enough to combat the negative effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle; the less time you spend up and moving, the slower your metabolism will get. This means that even if you exercise regularly after work, your body won’t burn off fats and carbohydrates as efficiently during the day.

You can still run the risk of gaining weight or struggling to lose it.  If you have a lean build, beware sitting at your desk chair immediately after eating, as this can lead to spikes in your blood sugar. In comparison, the effects of those spikes could be decreased by at least have if you get up and move about after eating.

Luckily, even incorporating moderate amounts of light physical activity throughout your day can help to offset the negative effects of a sedentary desk job.  A few things that you could try include:

  • Standing or pacing when you take phone calls in your office
  • Taking a 10 minute walk after eating lunch
  • Plan to get up and move around for a few minutes during each hour
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible
  • Walk to your coworker’s desk to ask a question instead of simply sending an email

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In addition to burning more calories, incorporating additional non-athletic movements over the course of the day can keep your metabolism engaged. This means that your body will be able to break down fats and sugars more easily, and can help to offset the negative effects that your desk job could have on your weight.

Sitting at your desk is bad for your posture

Working at a desk job usually leads to terrible posture habits, starting with your morning commute.

Spending hours each day sitting at a desk or in front of a computer is likely to lead to back and neck pain as a result of poor posture habits. If your job involves spending a significant amount of time working in front of a computer, you are likely to hunch over and lean forward while doing so. Perpetually working in a slouching position will negatively affect your spine and back muscles over time. If you work at a standing desk, you could also be causing additional strain on your neck muscles by looking downward at your computer screen.

Your office chair could be affecting your posture as well.  Most desk chairs are not designed to promote good posture; they swivel and flex to maximise your comfort, but this is not good for your back and spine health. Most chairs also allow the user to adjust the seat height, and sitting too high or too low could affect your posture as well.

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Good posture maintains the natural “S curve” structure of your spine.  This means that your head sits directly over your shoulders and your shoulders sit directly in line with your pelvis. Setting up your workstation correctly can help you to more easily maintain good posture:

  • For most office jobs, your office chair should be adjusted such that your working surface is at about elbow height.
  • Allow enough space behind your desk chair to allow you to sit forward in your seat with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Leaning backwards on the backrest, while comfortable, is likely to lead to slouching down in your seat. Sitting forward encourages you to maintain an erect stance while you work.
  • Set your computer monitor at a height that does not require you to lean forward or downward to see it properly. In most cases the surface of your desk is naturally too low; you can correct this by raising your monitor with a stand or stack of books.

Sitting down all day can increase the risk of incurring a leg injury

Spending your day sitting down can create a series of negative effects and imbalances in your leg muscles. Sitting down causes some of your muscles to contract while requiring other muscles to do nothing at all.  Therefore, spending large amounts of time each day in a seated position can lead to those imbalances becoming your body’s “new normal” and lead to long term issues in your lower body.

The hamstrings contract when you are in a seated position, because your bent knees exert less pull on the hamstrings than they do when you are standing. Over time your hamstrings can become excessively tight, increasing the risk of incurring an strain or rupture during athletic activities.

In contrast, your quadriceps do little to no work while you are in a seated position and can lose strength. An imbalance between the hamstring and quadricep muscles can lead to patellofemoral syndrome and other knee issues.

Hip flexors can grow tighter after extended periods of sitting, decreasing your flexibility and potentially leading to tendonitis. Similarly, weakened glute and outer hip muscles can clear to a number of pelvic and hip-related injuries.

Final Thoughts

To offset the negative effects of extended periods of sitting, make sure to include some time in your day to stretch and move around. Incorporate trips to the drinking fountain and “standing time” periods into your work day to keep your muscles loose, relaxed, and accustomed to operating in a natural position.  When you exercise pay particular attention to strengthening and stretching the above-mentioned muscles that are negatively affected by your desk job.

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