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Health Defence Blog

Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!

This week's Live Better Blog features guest blogger Jon Reid, personal trainer and owner of Panthera Performance. Jon brings us tips for sitting less and standing more to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Will you take a stand against sitting?

Sit less, stand more and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease

Many adults spend up to 7 hours a day being sedentary (aka sitting) and we’re 20% less active than we were in the 1960’s! With technology playing such a big part in our daily lives, fewer manual jobs and easier access to public transport, it’s no surprise that we sit more than we should.

That said, our bodies are quick to adapt to change (and not always for the best).  If you put your body in the same position for hours on end, guess what it’ll do? It’ll adapt its physiology to those positions. It’ll lengthen or shorten its muscle tissues and start changing the structure of its bones so that they suit the positions they adopt most often. That’s why gymnasts are so mobile, long distance runners can run for long distances and why people who sit down for hours on end…

Sitting

The human body was designed to move. When you sit down all day long your glutes (bum muscles) go to sleep, your spine flops out of shape and you don’t burn as many calories. Your muscles tighten up, become shorter and before you know it, your once perfectly shaped musculoskeletal system is now a tight pretzel. Not only that but prolonged sitting has also been shown to slow down cognitive processes, meaning you won’t be thinking quite so quickly at that important business meeting. Additionally, it’s important for our heart health to reduce the time we spend sitting. In fact by sitting less and moving more, we can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease by 35%.

Ahhhh I have to sit down a lot, what can I do??

Sometimes sitting is unavoidable, it’s quite difficult to drive a car standing up. However, there are a variety of options for office workers to help offset the damaging effects of sitting. The best method is to stand up and move. Here are some easy ways to incorporate regular movement into an office environment:

  • Stand up and move for at least five minutes every hour. Set a timer for five minutes to the hour, every hour, and walk around.
  • Tell your story walking… If you’re speaking on the phone, stand up and walk while you talk.
  • Meeting with a colleague? Make it a walking meeting.
  • If you’re emailing someone two floors up, or even two desks down, could you get up, move and go speak to them?
  • Pace around the kitchen while your wait for your afternoon coffee to brew

When you’re on your chair

There are ways to sit and ways not to sit. For example, sitting with a rounded back, hunched shoulders and eyes so close to the screen that it’s just a blur is, unsurprisingly - not good for your posture. So what can you do?

Sit on the edge of your seat

Many people sit back in their chairs so they are essentially sitting on their hamstrings (the back of their thighs) - our hamstrings are for sprinting with, not for sitting on. Your body has a ‘sitting bone’ called your ischial tuberosity. Sitting on the edge of your seat means the ‘sitting bone’ is supporting you, just like it’s supposed to.

Sit on your sitting bones and sit up straight!

Sit on your sitting bones and sit up straight!

Sit up straight

Heed the advice of your grandmother and be mindful of maintaining a neutral back whenever you're seated. It’s good manners.

Switch up your sitting position

Alter the way you’re sitting to keep your hips active and moving. Play around with different positions and switch every five minutes or so.

feature-image-jon-reid

Note: if you have back pain or a history of back problems please consult your GP before changing your seating posture.  

Standing desks

Becoming more and more common, standing desks need not be a technological marvel. A small table or box on top of your current desk can suffice. When standing, follow the (applicable) rules of sitting – be mindful of a neutral back, change your standing position often and avoid kissing the screen (shooting your head and neck forward). Also when standing, be sure to engage your glutes to help maintain the neutrality of your spine. Not only does a standing desk help to break up long periods of sitting; standing also burns more calories than sitting, helping us to maintain a healthy weight and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke.

standing-desk

Example of a standing desk

Summary

By implementing simple changes such as using a standing desk or holding a ‘walking’ meeting, we can break up periods of sedentary activity throughout the working day. Sitting less and moving more has a number of benefits, including reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), helping to maintain a healthy weight and improving our posture.  Implement these simple changes now and you’ll thank yourself later in life.

Jon Reid is an Edinburgh based personal trainer. He is the owner of Panthera Performance and is based out of his own private personal training studio. Check out Edinburgh Personal Training for free information on health and fitness and get in touch for personal training in Edinburgh.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland. CHSS does not endorse any particular health or exercise company.

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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