Beating the Sedentary Lifestyle

Modern life has resulted in many of us adapting to a sedentary lifestyle. If you are desk-bound at work and sit on your journey to work, you likely fall into this category.

Sitting, which has been dubbed “the new smoking”, comes with its own risks. It increases load on the spine and discs resulting in slouching, or the loss in the natural curve of the spine. Over time, this can cause changes in muscle length and can affect the strength and performance of the postural muscles in the spine and shoulders. In turn, this can result in pain and predisposition to injury. Muscles are healthiest when being used, so it is no surprise that staying seated for 8-9 hours a day might bring negative repercussions.

As a chartered physiotherapist, I see a lot of people with postural-related neck and back pain, namely aches and pains that can develop related to sitting, whether it be at a desk or driving. Many of these physical problems can be treated with physiotherapy to relieve the pain in the short-term. The long-term solution includes advice on correcting posture and finding a solution for sitting or standing in a more efficient way that reduces load on the spine and prevents reoccurrence.

For those who sit at a desk and experience (or would simply like to prevent) neck and back pain, I recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, stand up and focus on a point 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Even this short break will allow your spine to experience some relief and reduced load. It will also allow the small muscles of your eyes to rest, and the muscles around your shoulders and neck to relax. Circling your shoulders, turning your head gently from side to side and reaching both arms up overhead are other good ways to reduce the negative effects of sitting. Standing desks are also becoming more common in the workplace, and something I recommend quite regularly for clients.

Health risks associated with leading a sedentary lifestyle include increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, Diabetes, breast and colon cancer and depression. By engaging in an active lifestyle, there is strong evidence that these risks are greatly reduced. Active individuals are less likely to have a hip or spinal fracture and exhibit higher levels of cardiovascular and muscular fitness. They are also more likely to achieve weight maintenance and have a healthier body mass and composition than sedentary individuals.

Exercising and standing, in lieu of sitting, can help reverse the negative effects associated with sitting. The World Health Organisation recommends that adults aged 18–64 do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity every week. Alternatively, they can opt for at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Activity can be easily integrated into daily routines. It should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes and can include transportation, occupational, housework or sports activities.

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Emma Buckley

Emma Buckley

Emma is the Director of Nutrition and co-founder of GourmetFuel®. She has developed an entire range of health meals and meal plans to compliment healthy living and fuel performance. Emma Buckley B.Sc RNutr, is a Registered Nutritionist with the UKVRN through the Association for Nutrition, from Dublin, Ireland. A UCD graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry a Graduate Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health and a Higher Diploma in Diet and Nutrition. In almost two decades as a nutritionist she has worked with some of Ireland’s most well known food and health brands. She is an international keynote conference speaker on nutrition and health. She has worked closely with professional and Olympic athletes and coaches covering all track, field and combat sports at the highest levels. Her understanding of how food and the body work together along with a team of gourmet chefs, helps GourmetFuel create a beautiful range of healthy, delicious meals. Emma specialises in weight management, sports nutrition and maternal/postnatal and infant nutrition.

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