LIFE­STYLE Spend­ing too much time sit­ting is bad for your health – here’s what you can do to counter it


IT’S some­thing most of us would hap­pily do. Sit­ting is gen­er­ally equated with rest and re­lax­ation. But do­ing it for hours on end can lead to a host of aches and pains and it’s also been linked to a higher risk of heart dis­ease, di­a­betes and de­pres­sion.

It’s par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic for those who are stuck be­hind desks with their bot­toms on seats for hours on end ev­ery day. So what can we do to ease the pres­sure on our bod­ies?

We need to move more through­out the day, the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion says. Reg­u­lar gym ses­sions don’t cut it.

Here’s what you can do to beat the harm­ful ef­fects of sit­ting too much.


Get up ev­ery 20 min­utes or half hour and move around. Set an alarm as a re­minder.

“At a min­i­mum, you should be get­ting up ev­ery hour,” says Pro­fes­sor Alan Hedge, di­rec­tor of the hu­man fac­tors and er­gonomics lab­o­ra­tory at Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity in Amer­ica.

He rec­om­mends that af­ter sit­ting for 20 min­utes, you stand for eight min­utes then move around for two min­utes. Think about whether there are any tasks you can do stand­ing up that you could tackle dur­ing those eight min­utes.

Alan isn’t a fan of stand­ing desks as he says you can’t fix the prob­lems linked with sit­ting by sim­ply stand­ing more.

“It’s pos­si­ble to stand too much too,” he says. “And stand­ing is as­so­ci­ated with a va­ri­ety of ad­verse health prob­lems, in­clud­ing in­creases in back com­plaints, vari­cose veins and prob­lems with the feet.”

And it’s not good for your pos­ture ei­ther. “Af­ter stand­ing for more than 10 min­utes, you’ll start to lean.”


Make sure your work­sta­tion is prop­erly set up, says Maria Macken­zie, a body str­ess re­lease prac­ti­tioner in Cape Town.

Hav­ing at­tended to nu­mer­ous clients with back, neck and shoul­der pain from sit­ting in front of a com­puter for hours on end, Maria gives the fol­low­ing tips to en­sure your work­sta­tion is set up to avoid mus­cle strain and re­sult­ing ten­sion headaches.

Ad­just the height of your chair so your knees are in line with hips or a bit lower.

Your mon­i­tor should be at eye level in front of you and an arm’s dis­tance away.

Put your key­board on the edge of your desk, keep­ing your el­bows in line with your body.

Push your chair in as far as pos­si­ble so you don’t perch on the edge of it.


Bad pos­ture leads to mus­cle prob­lems in the back and neck, and it also af­fects breath­ing, says Cape Town-based chi­ro­rac­tor Dr Ja­son Liep­ner.

“Try this test: take a deep breath while lean­ing for­ward, as you would in your desk chair. Let it out, then sit up­right and take an­other breath. It’s ob­vi­ous which al­lows more oxy­gen in­take.” Maria sug­gests this pos­ture check­list: Sit back into the chair with your feet flat on the floor, your spine in a neu­tral state and your neck in line with your spine.

Your lower back should have a slight hol­low and your shoul­ders should be down and re­laxed.

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