A recent study concluded that for every hour we spend sitting in front of a TV, our lifespan is shortened by 22 minutes.  The study also showed that the average American spends 35 hours watching TV every week, meaning that our lives are shortened by up to 5 years, just from watching TV! The more we sit, the more likely we are to suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lower back pain.  

So, how does this compare to the amount of time lost by smokers?  Studies have shown that for every cigarette smoked, the person loses 11 minutes of their life.  Based on these studies, it is clear that the amount of time we spend sitting is slowly killing us, and why some researchers have begun to refer to sitting as the new smoking.

It Is More Than Just Watching TV

Although Americans spend hours a week in front of a TV, unfortunately, this is not the only time we spend sitting.  Most Americans now spend 40+ hours every week sitting in front of a computer at work.  And in order to get to work, we spend thirty minutes, an hour, or even longer sitting in a car during our commute.  Both ways.  Add all of this together, and most of us are spending 50+ hours seated, before we even begin to calculate the amount of time we spend on the couch once we get home.

Our bodies were not made for this level of inactivity. Take a moment and think back to our ancestors.  How much time did they spend sitting around?  Hardly any at all!  They were always out hunting, gathering, and running away from potential predators.  This is how our body is meant to function, we were designed to be mobile and in almost constant motion.

Tips for the Workplace

Most importantly, we need to get up and move around.  One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by taking what I refer to as micro-breaks while at work. I recommend that you set an alarm on either your phone or computer for every 45 minutes to an hour and use this as a reminder to stand up and move around a bit.  Take a couple of minutes to walk around the office, or just a minute to do some light stretching.  Then once you sit back down, check your posture and make sure you are sitting properly.

Far too often I hear patients tell me that they showed up at work at eight and the next thing they knew that it was noon and time for lunch and they hadn’t moved.  The longer we sit, our bodies tighten up which can lead to increased neck and back pain.  We have to get up and move on a regular basis.  

Exercise is Vital

If you are going to spend forty hours or more sitting at your desk every week, what you do when you are at home is extremely important.  Regular exercise is vital for everyone, but especially those that spend the majority of their day sitting.  It has been shown that thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise three or four times a week can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.  Examples of cardiovascular exercise include cycling, swimming, jogging, and brisk walking. Research shows that weight lifting, even light strength training, can also decrease your risk of heart disease by 25 percent.

When we sit for long periods, our hamstring and gluteal muscles become very tight.  In almost all of my patients with chronic lower back issues, I find that these muscles are extremely tight.  Stretching your hamstring and gluteal muscles for thirty seconds, three times per day can really help loosen up your lower back.  I recommend these stretches for almost all of my patients.

Remember, our bodies were not made for the kind of lifestyle that modern Americans live.  Try to limit the amount of time you spend watching TV, take breaks at work, receive regular chiropractic care and exercise consistently.  Not only will you experience less pain, you might even add a few years to your life.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Kevin Wafer is a chiropractor and the clinic director of CORE Chiropractic in Houston, Texas. He's a graduate of the University of Texas - Austin and Texas Chiropractic College.