Opinion

Sitting is the new smoking

It’s been expounded on recently by various sources, but our propensity to sit for long periods of time—whether on the job or at leisure, has become this era’s version of smoking tobacco and consequently, the number one correctable threat to our health.

Since much of the computer operator jobs out there today involve sitting for eight hours or more, the need for moving regularly on the job has never been greater; it’s simply not enough to have regular workouts. We need to take micro-, or short breaks on the job, in order to minimally neutralize the ravages of sitting.

What about standing?

As someone who was identified with carpal tunnel in the mid-eighties (mild in my left hand and moderate in the right), I was an early adopter of the now commonplace considerations for ergonomics. I chose not to have surgery in favor of making adjustments to my lifestyle—which included technique changes to a range of activities including, but not limited to, my typing style, my seating accommodations and how I played guitar.

Standing is better than sitting, but to stand for long periods of time without stretching, bending, reaching or otherwise moving poses a host of other problems. For me, my back begins to hurt when I stand in one place for too long. I can feel my spine compressing and then pain points begin to rear their ugly heads.

A mixture of sitting and standing seems to work best for me while on the job. While on micro breaks I like to do quick sets of pushups or abdominal crunches. Core strength is good in order to stave off back issues of all kinds—especially in aging baby boomers.

Road trips for the mature set

Another thing that comes to mind regarding sitting for extended periods of time are how hard road trips can be on our backs.

When I sit for a long time, as soon as I stand up, I can hear my hips crack in concert. With my first steps, my knees chime in. Fortunately, movement soon soothes this homage to cracklin’ Rosie and I begin to feel better with each advancing step I take.

When I’m in the car for a long time, I can feel the non-death version of rigor mortis setting in to my lower back, shoulders and knees. I know I will feel pain upon exiting the car and I know I will be moving slowly until I can stretch away the stiffness.

We romanticize the road trip until we grow older. The smart, aging car passenger understands that while they can push their driving regimen on these trips, to do so, ends up costing them pain on the back end—literally!

Smoking cigarettes killed previous generations slowly from the inside. Sitting is doing the same thing to current generations. But, as with smoking, there are definitely some signs that serve as clues to enact counter measures to offset the damage of sitting for too long.

Smoking tobacco is physically addictive and saps pulmonary function over time. Sitting is not a drug as much as it just feels good to a majority of us, albeit for shorter periods of time while contributing to circulatory problems the more we do it.

Can we adjust?

Since we cannot teleport yet, are stuck in a 21st century world using 20th century technology including automobiles and planes that require our sitting for extended periods of time, the choice to live well is simple.

But in order to simply live well, we have to resort to the time tested adage of listening to our bodies. These machines that provide the framework to support our more-common-than-not movement, require just that—regular movement.

Are you prepared to make some changes? Will you listen to what your body is trying to tell you?

If you’ve been ignoring your body’s call to become more active, you have performed the equivalent of refusing to quit smoking tobacco. All is not lost however. Just like most of the general population has given up smoking tobacco for health reasons, so can those of us who are overly sedentary give up sitting for too long.

This has been a public service and well-being announcement from your friends at hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley.

 

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