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Let’s face it: many of us could easily sit all day. Meetings, commutes, e-mails to review, and binge-worthy TV shows all leave us glued to some kind of chair for most of our waking hours. But too much sitting is toxic for your health. Dr. Matthew Zeppieri, Family Medicine Physician at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates in New Rochelle, shares exactly how — and where — too much sitting can be damaging your body.
Neck and Spine
Slouching, craning our necks, and tilting our hips forward while sitting all jostle our spines out of alignment. “The right posture is critical to avoiding back pain and neck pain,” explains Dr. Zeppieri. One easy fix is to put your phone on speaker or use headphones instead of cradling your phone between your ear and shoulder. Also, remember to check your chair. “Adjust so that your knees are at or below your hips, your feet are on the floor, and your monitor is at eye level,” he says. Adding a lumbar pillow or even a rolled towel between your lower back and the chair can promote alignment and protect your spine.
Waist and Weight
“Excessive sitting can lead to weight gain because you’re not burning off the calories you’re taking in,” Dr. Zeppieri says. Sitting too much increases the chance of excess fat around the waist, which is especially concerning. “A waistline greater than 40 inches [for men] and 35 inches [for women] increases the risk of heart disease and other issues.” Make sure to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Bones, Joints and Muscles
“Muscles need activity to remain strong, and our joints are designed to handle only so much weight. I often see patients with osteoarthritis, muscle fatigue, and even chronic pain from sitting too much. Even brief increments of being active reduce the risk of these conditions developing,” he notes.
Legs and Feet
Sitting too long can cause fluid retention and deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, that typically present in the thighs or the legs. Moving around is essential to jump-start blood flow throughout the body.
Head and Mood
Too much sitting and screen-staring is actually counterproductive. After a while, you may find your eyesight blurred and your mind depleted, which means your body needs to move. “The consensus is that for every 60 minutes of work, you should get up for about 10 to 15 minutes to ‘reboot’ your focus,” says Dr. Zeppieri. Even small bursts of activity can promote better sleep at night, which enhances your mood in the morning. Walk down the hall to speak with a colleague instead of sending an email, or set a calendar reminder or timer on your phone to get up and move regularly.
Dr. Matthew Zeppieri is a family medicine physician at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates of New Rochelle. For an appointment, call 914-235-8224.