Is Your Desk Job Killing You?

By Rebecca Jones

You go to the gym every day, eat a healthy diet, get 8 hours of sleep every night, you must be in great shape right? Not necessarily, if you spend the majority of your day behind a desk or on a couch that 45 minutes at the gym may not be enough to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. New research reveals that the more time you spend sitting the more likely you are to suffer a range of health problems from heart disease to back pain regardless of how thin you are or how much you exercise.

The problem is that regular exercise just can’t compete with moderate activity throughout the day. At the University of Missouri researchers discovered that people who were on their feet most of the day, even if they were just standing still burned more calories than those who ran 5-7 miles a day but spent the rest of their time sitting. One reason for this is the enzyme lipoprotein lipase. LPL is responsible for breaking down fat and turning it into energy. On studies done on mice it was discovered that LPL was 10 times more active in mice that stood around most of the time compared to those made to lie down most of the day.

Burning less calories is only one of the drawbacks of a desk job, other side effects are even more alarming. Research indicates that, independent from all other risk factors, sitting all day greatly increases your risk of heart disease. Regardless of weight, diet, and other factors such as smoking people who sit all day are 54% more likely to suffer a heart attack than their more mobile counterparts. Another down side is that our bodies adapt to whatever they spend the most time doing. The more you sit the more your body adapts to sitting and you can become less adept at running, walking even standing. The bad news doesn’t end there, more effects of sitting too much include poor balance, muscle stiffness, back pain, poor mobility and pain in your neck and hips. Your body can become so used to sitting that your muscles stop firing. Nicknamed gluteal amnesia, your glutes, the largest muscle group in the body, forget how to function properly. Not only will you burn less fat but weakened muscles can throw your pelvis out of alignment potentially damaging your hip flexors and spine.

(also read: Easy Steps to Take for a Healthier Heart)

So what can you do to minimize the health risks inherent in a desk job? They most important thing to remember is that every little bit helps. Parking far away from the front door, taking the stairs and standing when talking on the phone all help keep you more active throughout the day. Try taking a walk on your lunch break and practicing good posture at your desk. Even just taking 5 minutes to stretch your muscles every few hours can help keep you limber and alert. Unfortunately most of will not be able to get away from our desks for most of the week but a conscious effort to fit in a few extra steps all day long can have a tremendous effect on the health of our hearts and bodies.