As a part of the technological age, many American spend the majority of their days sitting at their desks. Whether they are working at a computer, engaging in conference calls, or strategizing with a team, movement is largely absent from many workplaces. While people generally understand that a sedentary lifestyle leads to an increased likelihood of heart disease and obesity, there are more subtle and sometimes sinister side effects of sitting so often.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by excess pressure and inflammation in the median nerve that runs through your forearm. If you spend the majority of your day typing away at a computer, chances are you are putting undue pressure on this area of your body. Ergonomic keyboards, mouse pads and chairs can often prevent or relieve carpal tunnel, but working in a job that requires sitting at a keyboard for the majority of the day puts you at greater risk for developing the disorder.
Even if you eat a relatively healthy diet, work-related stress has been linked to a higher incidence of Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Work-related stress aside, sitting in a hunched position after eating a meal, even a healthy one, allows gas to pass back up through the esophagus and relieve pressure on the stomach. If pressure continues to build inside of the stomach, stomach acid will leach back into the esophagus, leading to heartburn and acid reflux.
Back & Spine Injuries
We typically think back and spine injuries come as a result of doing something. In reality, they can happen as a result of not doing something as well. Over time, sitting causes undue stress to the lower back and surrounding tissues that can result in painful, debilitating injury. It also causes pressure to build in the spine's discs, creating low back pain and numbness and tingling in the legs and hips.
Heart Disease & Type II Diabetes
The American Heart Association recently published a study finding that people who spend sedentary days find themselves at an increased risk for both heart disease and Type II diabetes. Perhaps more surprising is the finding that those who exercise regularly are still not immunized against this increased risk. In fact, the authors of the study concluded that sitting for the majority of the day still puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease regardless of how much exercise you get. This does not necessarily mean you should skip the morning elliptical session, but it does mean that our bodies are meant to move throughout the day.
For those who have spent their careers toiling away at their desks, the potential health outcomes may seem bleak. Fortunately, the answer may be found in simply moving more often throughout the day. Taking a lap around the office, going for a walk after lunch, pausing for standing breaks every hour, or simply walking to and from the water cooler can improve circulation and reduce the likelihood of developing long-term complications from sitting.