It’s no surprise that we are a Netflix Nation, slumped in front of our screens day after day as Netflix asks us “are you still watching”? We’ve become a nation addicted to our screens, our phones, our tablets, our TVs, and this in turn means that many of us are living a sedentary lifestyle and even less shockingly so, that this is what is killing us.
We all know that not exercising or moving our bodies is dangerous for our health, yet still we sit for hours at a time, at work and at home. It’s not the act of sitting that is killing us per say, it’s the lack of movement and the dire amount of exercise we do.
Research from the World Health Organisation shows that 31% of adults globally are not sufficiently active and this has led to approximately 3.2 million deaths. This research was undertaken in 2008 so one would imagine that the number has only increased today.
According to Finder, in 2019 the average Brit is watching over 19 hours of TV a week (and this isn’t even including streaming services such as Netflix). The effect this is having on our health is undoubtedly significant. Firstly, when you are sitting you are not using up as much energy as when you are standing or moving which could lead to problems such as weight gain or even obesity. The NHS state that:
“Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.”
As physiotherapists, we at ALO Physiotherapy Clinic see many patients with issues that have stemmed from lack of physical activity. One of the most common problems caused by sitting for long periods of time is joint stiffness. The hip flexors and hamstring muscles become tight and this can cause pain. Harvard Health Publishing suggests that:
“Overly tight hip flexors and hamstrings affect gait and balance, making activities like walking harder and perhaps even setting you up for a fall. Plus, tight hip flexors and hamstrings may contribute to lower back pain and knee stiffness, scourges that many people suffer with every day.”
Another problem caused by sitting for too long is back pain and poor posture. Back pain is contributed to by poor posture which, according to Better Health, “may also cause poor spine health such as compression in the discs in your spine, leading to premature degeneration, which can be very painful.”
Sitting with poor posture puts stress on the spinal discs, joints and muscles and not only causes back pain but can also damage your neck and shoulders. It is important to sit while supporting your back, keeping your weight equal and your shoulders relaxed. Here at ALO Physiotherapy Clinic our focus with these patients is to inspire them to take responsibility for their health and posture through increased awareness and cognitive behavioural techniques, combined with specific rehabilitation exercises. We also run spinal and postural talks. If you are interested please register your interest with our receptionist on 0207 636 8845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey as explained on the BMC Public Health site has shown that adults need to take part in “moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity and strength training, and minimise time spent in sedentary behaviours”. Furthermore, the results suggested that “independent of MVPA (aerobic exercise), strength training has beneficial outcomes which are important for health and wellbeing, such as prevention and treatment of diabetes and cognitive decline and improvements and maintenance of skeletal muscle mass/strength, bone mineral density and physical functioning.”
An article on the NHS website discusses how new research has shown that prolonged sitting has caused 70,000 deaths a year in the UK alone. Being sedentary for more than 6 hours a day can lead to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, colon (bowel cancer) and endometrial (womb) cancer.
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Guidelines recommends that adults “should do activities to develop or maintain strength in the major muscle groups. Muscle strengthening activities should be done at least two days a week, but any strengthening activity is better than none.” They also suggest that “each week, adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate intensity activity; or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity; or even shorter durations of very vigorous intensity activity; or a combination of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensity activity.”
Dr Keith Diaz co-author of a recent study found:
“The overall time you spend sitting must be cut down. (So) even if you go to the gym after work, it won’t reverse the damage done by sitting at your desk for eight hours.”
He also advises that:
“When you take a movement break it doesn’t matter what you do, you can take a nice stroll down the hall…it is about just accruing enough activity across the day.’
This could be a simple as walking to a colleague’s desk or going to get a glass of water.
BUPA UK ran a pilot using Little Nudge, computer software that reminds desktop and laptop users to do healthy activities whilst working, which showed the following results:
” After using Little Nudge for 3 months, the total number of people who said that they are bothered by back pain, neck pain and headaches reduced by 27%, 14% and 33% respectively. The number of people who said that they were ‘bothered a lot’ by headaches reduced by 61%. Little Nudge users rated their performance as 7% higher after 3 months. People saying that they stand up and move at least hourly more than doubled. People resting their eyes at least hourly increased by 77%. People never resting their mind reduced by 32%.”
Little Nudge is an app designed by ALO Physiotherapist Clinic Director, Andre De Olivera, and Emily Tims Research Physiotherapist, after realising a gap in the market for a technology to assist in the sedentary lifestyles of office workers, encouraging them to move more often to help prevent ill-health.
The evidence for how our sedentary lifestyles are killing us is outstanding. All research proves how vitally important it is for us not to sit for long periods of time and that getting up every 20 minutes or 30 minutes is crucial for our health and well-being.
So perhaps next time Netflix asks us “are you still watching?” we should take this as an opportunity and a reminder to get up and move. Although many of us have sedentary jobs that cannot be helped we should try and take a walk around every so often, get the blood flowing and the joints and muscles moving, it could help you in the long run. At home we can try and take control of our physical activity to stay as fit and healthy as we can, take walks, go for a jog and do strengthening exercises.
If you are suffering from joint or muscle pain you may need to see a physiotherapist, to discuss your options you can call us on 0207 636 8845 or book an appointment online.