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Is Sitting the New Smoking? The Impact of Prolonged Sitting on Your Health

Did you know that sitting or being sedentary most of the day increases your risk of developing disease, according to Dr. James Levine, Director of Mayo Clinic Arizona State Obesity Solutions Initiative? Every two-hour period of sitting increases the risk of certain cancers, including colon, endometrial and lung cancer. Since the body was meant to be in motion, decreased circulation also increases the risk of depression and musculoskeletal issues. In addition, elevated insulin levels from being sedentary increases the risk of Type II diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic diseases, such as obesity.

This is not good news for so many individuals who spend countless hours sitting in a car, on a couch or at a computer work station. In addition, it appears that exercise does not offset the risk since the problem is the number of hours of uninterrupted sitting. The key is to interrupt sitting and increase activity throughout the day, in any way you can. The good news is with all this technology at our fingertips, you can set an alarm and change postures or do something at regular intervals, like every hour. Here are some examples:

1. Sit on a ball instead of a chair to activate the core muscles and balance reactions; you are literally exercising while sitting. You can also draw in the lower abdominals while exhaling and repeat 10 times every hour. Doing this on a ball is more beneficial, but it can be done sitting on the edge of your chair.

2. Interrupt periods of prolonged sitting by standing in Pilates Posture of Power pose for one minute, followed by raising on your tiptoes 10 times to exercise the calf muscles to improve circulation. To do this pose, stand with your toes spread and heels together, tighten your thighs and glutes (buttocks), draw your shoulder blades into your back pockets and imagine your chin is on a shelf. Keep your weight centered over your heels, not your toes.

3. Plank for 30 seconds. You can also do a side plank to work those love handles. Store a yoga mat under your desk or modify by leaning onto your desk instead of the floor if you are limited by space or cleanliness.

4. Walk briskly on your break or lunchtime, even for 10 minutes. Tools like Fitbit or a pedometer can help.

5. Work Standing Up. Standing desks are becoming more popular and many of them are convertible. You can also try kneeling on the floor some of the day with a pillow or mat under your knees while working at your computer.

No matter the method, interrupt any two-hour period of sitting and reduce your risk for disease to get on the path to a healthier you! If you are unable to move your body due to pain, weakness or stiffness, we can help. See our website for more information on the Healthy Core Plan!

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