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We do it all the time – we sit. Something that comes so natural to us and feels comfortable shouldn’t be half bad to our health, right? Wrong. Recent studies show that prolonged sitting can actually lead to a host of health problems, including premature mortality. Learn how you can fight the effects of having to sit on the job, in the car, or in front of the television.

We’ve evolved to stand most of the time, as constant physical activity was demanded by our environment for thousands of generations. However, with the advent of new technology, the Internet, and demanding works schedules, we are often left in a chair for hours on end, with no reason to get up. And many of us equate sitting with relaxing, but many of us can agree that after hours sitting upright at a desk or table, we start to experience not-so-relaxing symptoms, such as a sore back and neck, and a lack of energy.

Prolonged sitting puts unhealthy forces on your body that can ultimately lead to serious ailments. When you sit for a long period of time, your metabolism level decreases, your muscles become immobile, circulation slows, and fewer calories are burned. Sitting all day shortens and tightens the body’s hip flexors and hamstrings, causing the muscles that support the spine to become weak and stiff. This is part of the reason why lower-back pain among women has increased threefold over the past 20 years. According to research, sitting down for most of the day, like many of us do at work, has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, and type-2 diabetes. A recent study has also shown that sitting time, such as that spent watching television and driving the car, contributes to an increase in premature mortality risk.

A daily 30-minute exercise routine may not be enough, since the remainder of the day is spent idle. A study showed that those who took more breaks from sitting throughout the day had slimmer waists, lower body mass indexes and healthier blood fat and blood sugar levels than those who sat the most. This was regardless of the intensity of the exercise in which participants engaged. Keep moving, even when sitting, reaching for things, opening drawers, and overall maintaining a fidgety demeanor, as this will keep your body active, despite being on a chair.

And because being in a chair may be an inescapable situation, make sure to sit in the correct way. Your chair should be high enough so that your feet are flat on the floor, with your thighs parallel to the floor. Your back should be in an upright position, with the back of the chair hugging the contours of your back and should be tilted back between 90 and 120 degrees.

Remember the slogan: sitting kills, moving heals (it is even the title of a book), and get up and move around as much as possible. This will increase your blood flow and keep your body on the ball, both on the inside and out.

Photo Credit: Nicki Varkevisser