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Take a stand: why sitting too much is bad for your health

August 27, 2013

Do you sit too much? Many parents do. Whether you’re sitting on the sidelines while your kids enjoy playtime, or spending your workday sitting at your desk, research shows that too much sitting is not only bad for your health, it also decreases your life expectancy.

“When you sit for a long time there is a loss of blood flow to your lower extremities,” said Ismael Tamba, DO, MPH, at Duke Primary Care in Wake Forest “Sitting for longer than six hours increases the risk of blood clots, obesity, kidney disease, and heart disease. It also leads to a sedentary lifestyle.”

How can you start taking a stand? Tamba recommends drinking water frequently, taking a break every hour to walk around, and simply flexing your calf muscles to increase the blood flow if you are unable to stand or move for long periods of time.

If you work at a desk, consider getting a standing desk, which are gaining popularity as more studies show they make a difference. They can be as simple as a stable bench, which raises your mouse and keyboard to the appropriate level. Or, you can invest in a more elaborate version that “allows you to adjust your computer monitor and keyboard whether you are sitting or standing,” said Tamara James, director of Duke University’s Ergonomics Division.

Having the option to sit or stand is important because James says standing for long periods of time is not always comfortable or healthy.

“Have you ever noticed that restaurants and bars normally have a brass rail for you to rest one foot on while you stand? The rail increases your comfort and lessens the impact on your lower back. Try to elevate one foot when you stand for long periods of time.”

You can also minimize your discomfort by wearing comfortable shoes, standing on a padded mat, and shifting weight between your feet.

The bottom line is, too much of any one thing is probably not ideal. “Whether you tend to sit all day, or stand, it’s important to switch it up so you keep the blood flow moving,” said Tamba.

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