Do you spend more than six hours in a day sitting in a chair or a couch? You are not alone in moving towards a sedentary lifestyle. Working professionals with desk-jobs spend close to one-third of their days sitting at a stretch.
This habit may be doing more harm to you than you think. Sitting in a chair for prolonged hours can lead to lower back pain or aggravate an existing back problem.
When sitting, the static posture increases stress on the muscles in your back, shoulders, arms, and legs. It can pressurize the tissues and tendons of your back muscles and affect the spinal discs.
After spending most of the day in a sitting posture, we get too exhausted to exercise. It is, therefore, crucial to maintain a good sitting posture and avoid muscular pain and related health problems.
Here are a few health problems that can develop if your routine includes long hours of sitting.
1. Lower Back Pain
It is common for people to slouch when seated for long hours in their office chair. In due course of time, this habit can hamper your overall posture and worsen back pain. Even the most comfortable chair can hurt your back because of the prolonged static posture. Hence, it is advisable to take breaks and avoid sitting in a fixed posture.
If you avoid moving around and stretching your limbs frequently, then your joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons can strain and turn sore.
Tip: You should remember to frequently stand, stretch and walk for at least a minute or two every hour. Opt for a chair that supports your spinal curves and lumbar region, and ensure that your feet rest on the ground when sitting.
2. Neck and Shoulder Pain
The upper back and neck are most affected by improper sitting posture. The position of your computer monitor and keyboard at your work desk also play a part in pressurizing the muscles in these regions. If the screen is too far or too close to you, then you may be twisting your neck to adjust your vision. You can strain your neck and shoulder muscles if this becomes a habit.
It is also important to maintain a straight posture when sitting by keeping your forearms parallel to the floor while typing.
Tip: Try stretching and performing simple neck and shoulder exercises twice a day to loosen up these parts. Ensure that the top of the computer screen is slightly below or at eye level to eliminate neck twisting. If you experience severe neck pain for over two weeks, consult a doctor.
3. Compromised Vision
The prolonged use of computer/laptop or any digital screen can result in Computer Vision Syndrome. People tend to experience multiple eye and vision-related problems, and discomfort upon viewing digital screens.
Looking at a digital screen for long often leads to stress in the eye muscles as the letters and symbols on the computer screen are not etched distinctly, like on paper. Additionally, the glare and reflection due to the backlight makes it difficult for the eyes to view the text and images on the screen. It is even more harmful if you already wear glasses or contact lenses.
This syndrome can hamper your visual abilities and you can experience blurred vision while looking at distant objects, even after stopping working on a computer. If left untreated, the symptoms continue to recur and, perhaps, worsen with time.
Tip: It is necessary to place the computer monitor at eye level and at an arm’s length from you. After every 20 minutes, look away from the screen for 20 seconds and observe objects kept 20 feet afar. This exercise will help relax the eye muscles.
4. Higher Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
Prolonged sitting increases the risk of facing all-cause mortality because we steer away from physical activity. According to a study published by the Journal of American Medical Association, sitting in a static posture for a long time can make you prone to chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cancers.
Tip: Inculcate the habit of working out every day to keep your heart and body healthy and active. The World Health Organization recommends that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-level physical activity in a week to reduce the risk of these diseases.
Physical inactivity due to long work hours can hamper your metabolism. According to a study published by National Institute of Medicine, people using a computer/laptop for a minimum of 11 hours a week or those watching TV for more than 21 hours per week are more likely to be obese than those who use a computer or watch TV for about 5 hours per week.
In fact, women who spend long hours sitting tend to gain weight even after checking on their calorie intake and exercising.
Bonus Tip: Incorporate physical activity during the day to keep a check on the fat accumulated around the waist, and total body fat in general. Additionally, you may want to strengthen your muscles by lifting weights or doing push-ups to burn the extra calories. This way, you can avoid developing abdominal obesity.
As technology eases our daily chores and activities, we are gradually switching over to a sedentary lifestyle. Subsequently, our fitness levels have reduced and we are becoming more prone to muscular ailments and chronic diseases. It is, therefore, essential that we imbibe healthy habits that keep these unhealthy conditions at bay. The above tips will help you inculcate such habits and lead a healthy and an active life.
Author: Swati Kapoor is a qualified dietitian at Practo. She has a Masters degree in Dietetics and Food Service Management. She is a strong believer in spreading the goodness of ‘nutrition through healthy eating’. As a responsible dietitian Swati examines her patients’ health history carefully before recommending any diet or workout regimen, because everybody has different requirements.
Swati has also taken it upon herself to debunk myths in diet and fitness through practical advice in her articles. This helps her readers learn the essence of health eating and make the right choices in their daily diet. Swati has been helping people live healthy and active for the past 4 years, by recommending diet plans that fit individual preferences and health parameters.