Gathered around the patio table on a beautiful early autumn evening, talk with friends turned to caring for aging parents. Jan, whose mother lives independently...
We all know that movement is necessary to keep the body healthy, and it is not healthy to sit down for too much of the day. However, it can be difficult to tell how much sitting is too much. If possible, it is best to get up and walk around once every hour at least. Do tasks that require you to be standing or walking for fifteen or more minutes and begin your day with movement after resting all night. There are signs to watch for that can mean you are sitting too long or sitting down too much.
Can You Relate to These Signs You Are Sitting Too Long?
Swelling in Feet and Legs
When the body remains seated, the fluids are allowed to pool at the feet and ankles without enough pressure to move it back up. This causes ankles and feet to become swollen and appear to be retaining water. By getting up and moving more, the circulation within the legs and feet will improve, and the swelling will be relieved.
Sore Hips and Back
When sitting, the hips stay in the same position for an extended time, and the back is often slouched with shoulders rolling forwards. This posture and the strain on the muscles from holding the position for extended times can be compounded as days pass, and the problem is not addressed. Getting up to move more helps maintain healthy muscles and joints and helps to relieve pain and stiffness in the hips and back.
Sitting down burns much fewer calories than regular movement, and this decrease in calories being used can cause weight gain. This may begin slowly but will continue over time as a sedentary lifestyle remains. Doing exercises from a seated position can help to slow weight gain. If you are still active during other times of day, the sitting will not cause surprise weight gain quickly, but it will show over time if sitting down too much for the foods being consumed.
Fatigue and Excess Tiredness
Movement helps to improve circulation, and good circulation boosts energy. Thus, sitting too much will increase fatigue and cause people to feel more tired than usual. The muscles and body will feel more tired than during regular movement, so taking breaks during the day to move your muscles and body will help increase energy and help to feel less fatigued.
Headaches may be more related to the activities that are done while sitting down for too long than by the sitting itself. For example, looking at a screen for an extended time can cause eye strain that will be uncomfortable and leads to headaches. Reading books, doing cross-stitch, and even knitting, for long periods without a break can cause strain not only on the eyes but also on the body for staying in that position. Having the shoulders hunched while working on a task or hobby will cause strain on the back muscles and the shoulders and can lead to headaches from the posture.
Lack of Focus
Remaining sitting down for too long can affect the ability to focus and make tasks more difficult to complete or finish. The body can begin to ache, and the eyes may be strained by their task, while the mind begins to wander and find other things to consider. This lack of focus makes things take longer, which compounds the impact of remaining setting for extended periods.
Movements of the body throughout the day cause the muscles to expand and contract. This, in turn, provides movement around the organs, including the digestive system. This works in a similar way to a massage and can help the digestive system to work well and to be able to digest your foods easily and quickly. As the muscles move less while seated, this does not offer the same support to the digestive system, which can cause issues to arise, including discomfort, nausea, and other concerns.
What to do About Sitting Down Too Long
If you find that you are sitting down too much, either for work, hobbies, or due to injury or illness, there are some solutions that can ease the symptoms and the effect on your body. By finding ways to move the body more, even when you can not stand up or walk around, you can improve your body's health and help reduce these symptoms. In addition, you will find that the circulation improves. You will breathe more deeply, which will also help the needed nutrients get to all areas of your body.
As circulation is improved, nutrients are transported throughout the body. They will get to the organs and muscles that need them. This will ease swelling, improve healing and digestion, and improve the appearance of the skin. Muscles and joints will become less sore, and posture improves, decreasing neck, back, and shoulder pain.
To improve circulation and ease the effects of sitting too long, a few things can be done. If you can, stand and move or go for a short walk every hour. This will break up the day and help maintain focus while allowing the muscles to move from their position, and in this way, the pain will decrease. Stretching while you are standing will relax tension from muscles and allow the body to reset before sitting back down. If you are unable to stand and walk for any reason, doing some stretches while seated will also help. Turn the body at the waist as far as you can to each side, do a side stretch, and stretch both arms and legs as straight as they can go, raise hands over your head and then stretch them forward to release tension in the shoulders, neck, and back. To ease headaches, take frequent breaks, allow the eyes to rest a few times a day to reduce strain by looking at something else or moving away from a screen.