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How sitting too much can affect your health

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Health Risks of Sitting

In 2019, Business Tech reported that South Africa was one of the most traffic-congested countries in the world. The article sourced a traffic scorecard that placed South Africa as the eighth most congested country, where drivers spend on average 36 hours sitting in peak traffic per year. That’s almost two days of sitting which may seem benign but only accounts for a fraction of the time we spend sitting.

The reality is that we don’t realise how long we sit for and more research into prolonged sitting has found hazardous health concerns which may cause you to rethink your current lifestyle habits.

What happens when you sit for too long?

Aside from weight gain due to reduced energy use, prolonged sitting was found to increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to Mayo Clinic.

Other physical effects include stiff shoulders and neck which is usually a result of improper posture while sitting, developing spider or varicose veins which cause your veins to swell up and become more visible, and backache, also typically a result of poor posture.

The mental health effects which are not commonly discussed but most prominently present in people with prolonged sitting habits are anxiety and depression. A study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that sitting causes more fatigue than standing and that increased activity shows better mental health and vitality.

How long is too long?

Experts say that sitting becomes harmful to those who sit for up to 8 or more hours per day. But prolonged standing is also extremely unhealthy so how can you safeguard yourself from health issues?

The key is to introduce shorter intervals of both, which the director at Active Working, Gavin Bradley, calls the 30:5 rule – allowing you to sit for 30 minutes and stand for 5 minutes. It may be difficult to do at first, especially if you work in an environment where sitting is the norm so it’s best to monitor the amount of time you sit every day and to ensure that you are standing during your breaks. Stepping away from your desk at work may also help to give your brain a break and improve productivity.

If you aren’t sure of how much time you spend sitting, you can monitor your risk using a sitting calculator, here. Also ensure that you schedule more time for activities such as moving meetings and catch-ups, as well as your weekly EMS strength training session at your nearest studio. A stronger core will assist with posture corrections that in turn help resolve related body aches such as back pain, stiff shoulders and neck.

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