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Is sitting for long periods bad for your health?

If you work in an office environment or your occupation requires you to sit down most of the time, you will be all too familiar with the feeling of discomfort that occurs. You may get sudden sensations of pins and needles down your legs, or your lower back starts to ache, and you gradually feel pain crawling up your back towards your shoulders and head.

Whatever you experience by sitting down for long periods, getting up and out of your seat, and moving around can offer many benefits and lower the risk of developing certain health conditions. This Pacific Prime Latin America article goes over the impacts of sitting for long periods, and how you can change your routine to reduce pain and even prevent it from getting worse.

Individual health insurance blog

The impacts of sitting down for a long period

Did you know that our bodies are designed for movement? It’s a bit obvious if you might say, but the truth is, as humans, we work best when we are active. This principle goes back thousands of years to when our ancestors were hunter-gatherers and relied on their abilities to move swiftly and even manipulate tools for survival. Fast forward to 2023, and the billions of modern Homo sapiens on this planet now experience other concerns unrelated to hunting and fighting off clans and tribes, although staying alive can be considered one of them.

Today’s modern health issues include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, etc., and in the world of health insurance, these are considered pre-existing if you had them before you started a new healthcare plan.

All of these can come about from a sedentary lifestyle, and sitting down for long periods can contribute to the risk of developing such health conditions, which is why we should move (and even stretch) more. According to an earlier study in 2011, people who sit the most, compared to people who sit the least, have a greater risk of disease and death:

  • 112% increased risk of developing diabetes.
  • 147% increased risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
  • 90% increased risk of death from cardiovascular events.
  • 49% increased risk of death from any cause.

Given how the above study illustrates the seriousness of sitting down most of the time, we can expect the impacts to be much worse today, unless we change our ways or employers introduce benefits or solutions that improve employees’ habits and routines.

What can we do to offset the effects of sitting all day?

If you are struggling to come up with ideas, try these tips to help ward off any negative effects of sitting down:

1. Setting the alarm or a timer

One of the simplest things to do is to set the alarm. Get up every 45 minutes to an hour and either stand, stretch, or walk around. Use the time to go to the loo or to grab a quick snack. You could check in with your colleague for a quick chat. Use your phone to set a timer too. Just be sure to pick a sensible ringtone/sound or set your phone to vibrate so you don’t disturb others.

2. Watching your posture

Unless you are sitting on an ergonomically designed chair, you will want to focus on how you are seated. Generally, your lower back should be flush against your seat, and your spine should be aligned against the back of the seat. If your seat or chair doesn’t have a headrest, your shoulder should rest nicely against the top to stabilize your neck and head.

Your wrist should be resting flat on the desk or keyboard padding (if you have one) to take the pressure off the joints. At the same time, your eyes should be perpendicular to the screen.

All the above arrangements for how you sit can help improve your posture, and reduce strain and pressure on your joints.

Further reading: 5 worst health problems common with computer use

3. Taking a stand

This might be something your employer can offer to you as a perk in the office or if you are working from home. If possible, opt for a standing desk. Not only can this help improve your posture, but your heart will thank you for it too! According to Harvard Health Publishing, spending less time sitting and more time standing lowers blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight — all of which translates into a lower risk for heart disease.

4. Going for a workout

If your employer offers gym membership or access to activities to boost physical well-being, then you should be going to help give yourself the much-needed stretch to help your body loosen up and get stronger.

An active approach at the gym can help improve blood flow, keep sugar levels down at safe levels, and even benefit your mental health.

Additional reading: Best exercises for mental health

Get protection from developing chronic conditions

Overall, prolonged sitting can cause you to develop a series of health problems over time which can impede your ability to work and perform effectively in your role. Therefore, moving and stretching can often alleviate the problems and pain and prevent them in the first place.

However, over time, our bodies will change, and when it does, the unexpected can happen even to the healthiest of us. This is why at Pacific Prime Latin America, we encourage our readers and clients to consider securing an individual health insurance plan or life insurance plan regardless of where they are in the region, from Mexico to Costa Rica, Columbia, and other neighboring countries.

With over 20 years of knowledge and expertise advising expats in the Latin American region, our consultants can help provide impartial advice and a FREE quote from a number of excellent insurance partners.

To get started, contact us today, and we will help you secure a plan that is bespoke to your needs and matches your budget.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Latin America
Jimmy is a content writer who helps simplify insurance for readers interested in international private medical insurance. He is on a mission in Thailand to support locals, expatriates, and businesses by bring the latest news and updates to his Pacific Prime blog articles.

His expert view and wealth of knowledge on insurance can also be found in his blogs for China, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.