Chronic Sitting and the Negative Health Impacts

Now that the days are longer and temperatures are warming, many are eager to get outside and get moving. Yet for those who work at a desk for much of the day, it seems prolonged sitting is just part of the job.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, chronic sitting can have adverse effects on your health. However, the good news is a few easy exercises throughout the day can make all the difference. Milford Regional’s Dr. Amy Costa, a sports and family medicine physician in Milford, provides some simple and effective tips to keep moving throughout the workday.

Can you explain why chronic sitting is so bad for our health?

Studies show that physical activity, even just walking slowly for a few minutes, improves blood sugar, blood pressure and mood. Chronic sitting takes away these benefits.

Have you seen any health issues develop as a result of chronic sitting?

Yes! We know that a sedentary lifestyle, such as chronic sitting, leads to elevated BMI and its associated health risks, including high blood sugar and high blood pressure. A sedentary lifestyle also leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes, etc.).

For those who sit behind a desk much of the day, what are some simple but effective exercises to do during the work day?

A little activity such as standing and walking in place for one minute every hour is effective (but more is better). Easy body weight exercises such as squats and lunges are effective too. Consider walking up and down a few flights of stairs if you can leave your desk.

Many times, individuals get caught up in their work and don’t realize how long they’ve been sitting. Do you have any suggestions to help remind us to get up and move?

Setting an alarm can be effective. Or if there is a regular task or natural break that occurs every 30-60 minutes, use that task as a reminder to move. Losing attention on a task is a good signal to get up and move.

Would you agree that the problem of chronic sitting is not only among many working adults but kids who are sitting for long periods of time gaming or on other devices? Any advice for parents to get their kids off the screens and moving?

Elementary-aged kids to teens need about 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. For kids who just love gaming, I often suggest games that involve movement such as any VR (virtual reality) game or Just Dance (on multiple platforms). Like adults, kids need to enjoy exercise or they won’t do it, so you have to explore what movement they find fun and facilitate that.

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