Sit Too Much? Therapists and Others Need to Look at Research

Recent studies about those of us who sit too much, i.e., the possibility of prolonged sitting adversely affecting one’s health, should be scary for many, including therapists. Obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and more are possible hazards. Even regular gym-type workouts apparently don’t offset the risks (though are still recommended for overall health and fitness.)

One “helpful” idea comes from Merrill Markoe: “Now that we know sitting too much shortens your life, experts need to step in and help redefine sitting on the edge of a chair as standing.”

Barring that likelihood, a new field called inactivity physiology is emerging. It “explores the effects of our increasingly butt-bound, tech-driven lives, as well as a deadly new epidemic researchers have dubbed ‘sitting disease'” (Selene YeagerWomens Health).

A slideshow called “Sedentary Behavior and Inactivity Physiology” created by Yannis Guerra, a Chicago-based doctor, carries a subtitle of “Killing you softly and gently.” In other words: Sitting disease may kill…but it doesn’t hurt a bit.

Or does it? When we sit too much, our posture and backs suffer too.

Sitting is so all-around unhealthy it’s been dubbed the “new smoking.”

So, what can everyone do? Well, logically, of course, if sitting is like smoking:

  • We should only be allowed to do it outdoors or in well-ventilated areas for brief periods during our workday. If you’re going to insist on bending your body into a lap like that, take it outside.
  • Whether we do it in appropriately designated areas or not, other people should think nothing of making us feel ashamed of ourselves. Ugh! How can you keep doing that disgusting thing with your rear end?!
  • Those nearest and dearest to us need to get in on the act. Can’t you please stop exposing me to your second-hand sitting! It so makes me want to join you!!

Or maybe that’s taking the analogy a bit too far.

As therapists we’re uniquely positioned to assist others toward health, but first we have to help ourselves. So, what can therapists specifically do to tackle this problem?

One serious bit of advice that’s been proven to help—and is right up a shrink’s alley—is to get up and/or walk around at least one minute per hour. A cinch—it’s what we already do. See a client, stand up. Walk him or her to the door.

During your brief break between sessions try another suggestion that supposedly helps: While working at your desk or on the phone stay standing.

See your next client, repeat the above process. Other career sitters could emulate us in this regard—we invented the hourly stand-up!

What else can therapists do to not sit too much?

  • Drink more water and other healthy fluids so you’ll be forced to use the bathroom more often. Use the one farthest away from you in your building. If your client or someone else has beaten you to it, run to the next one! Won’t this be fun?
  • Write your progress notes while standing. There are stand-up desks specially made now to combat sitting-too-long-at-work issues. Or, alternatively, dictate your notes while performing amazing acrobatic feats.
  • Use your lunch and other breaks to get up and do something more active. Jog over to the nearest store. Buy yourself a little something. Perhaps a large pastry.

Next, tackle that compulsion you have to pee, jump around, run, spend, and overeat. It’s the “new sitting,” you know.

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