• Depression and Other Mental Health Problems Due To Prolonged Sitting

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    We all go through spells of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days. Some people still think that depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it's not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”.

    There is a growing scientific consensus that the more time you spend sitting, the shorter and less healthy your life may be. Excessive sitting, such as at a desk or in front of the TV, significantly impacts your cardiovascular and metabolic function.

    This raises your risk for heart attack, type 2 diabetes, insomnia, arthritis, and certain types of cancer—and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Sitting for extended periods of time increases your risk for premature death. This is especially concerning given the fact that you may be vulnerable to these risks even if you are a fit athlete who exercises regularly.

    Sitting: Your Brain's Mortal Enemy

    Prolonged periods of inactivity—best described as sitting a lot—is unhealthy. Deadly, even. In a survey of some 220,000 adults, those who sat for more than eight hours a day had a 15 percent greater risk of dying within three years than those who sat for fewer than four hours a day, found a March study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This risk still held true for those who spent part of their day exercising. The results were worse for those who sat for 11 hours or more a day. They had a 40 percent greater risk of early death compared to those who sat for under four hours.

    Sitting Increases Psychological Distress, Decreases Feelings of Well-Being

    Other researchers have come to similar conclusions about the mental effects of spending too much time on your derriere. British researchers reviewing data from a national wellness project found that spending leisure time on the computer and watching TV were associated with reduced feelings of well-being.

    Why does sitting have such a negative impact on your mental health? Psychology Today may be on to something:

    “Some of the psychological effects of sitting may be rooted in what people tend to do while in their chairs. They may stare at an electronic screen, rather than connecting emotionally with others. They may watch mindless TV shows, rather than engaging intellectually with the world. Or they may multitask ceaselessly—flitting between work emails, personal texts, social media, and the Internet—rather than honing their attention.”

    Computer Is Bad for Your Child, Too!

    Sitting in front of a computer screen for five hours a day can dramatically increase the risk of depression and insomnia. Previous studies have focused on how too much screen time can cause physical afflictions, such as headaches, eye strain, and backache. Now one of the biggest ever investigations into the hazards of computers in the workplace has concluded that they can also damage mental health.

    Quick and Easy Workplace Workouts

    The easiest strategy is to merely stand up, and then sit back down. But evidence suggests you'd be wise to go a little further—especially if you only exercise a few times a week or not at all. There are plenty of ways to increase your movement at work.

    The following videos, featuring Jill Rodriguez, offer a series of helpful intermittent movement beginner and advanced exercises you can do right at your desk. For a demonstration of each technique, please see the corresponding video in the two tables below. I suggest taking a break to do one set of three exercises, anywhere from once every 15 minutes to once per hour. For even more  suggestions, please refer to our previous article on intermittent movement.

    Technique #1: Standing Neck-Stretch: Hold for 20 seconds on each side.

    Technique #2: Shoulder Blade Squeeze: Round your shoulders, then pull them back and pull down. Repeat for 20-30 seconds.

    Technique #3: Standing Hip Stretch: Holding on to your desk, cross your left leg over your right thigh and “sit down” by bending your right leg. Repeat on the other side.

    Technique #4: The Windmill: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, then pivot your feet to the right. Push your hip out to the left. Raising your left arm skyward, and your right arm toward the floor, lower your body toward the floor while looking up, and then raise your torso back to standing position. Repeat on the other side.

    Technique #5: Side Lunge: Starting with your feet together, take a medium step sideways, and bend down as if you're about to sit. Use your arms for balance by reaching out in front of you. Return to starting position, and repeat 10-20 times. Repeat on the other side.

    Technique #6: Desk Push-Up: Place hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart on your desk. Come up on your toes to make it easier to tip forward. Do 10 repetitions.

    Technique #7: Squat to Chair: With your feet shoulder-width apart, sit down, reaching forward with your hands, and stand back up in quick succession. Do 15-20 repetitions.

    Technique #8: Single Leg Dead Lift: Place your right hand on your desk, and place your weight on your right leg. Fold your torso forward, while simultaneously lifting your left leg backward. Do 10 repetitions on each side.

    Technique #9: Mountain Climber: Get into a push-up position on the floor. Pull your right knee forward to touch your right wrist or arm, then return to push-up position. Repeat on the other side. Try to pick up the pace, and do 20 quick repetitions.

    Stand up for yourself: If you have a desk job, seek opportunities to add more activity breaks to your day. And reconsider how you spend your free time: It’s important to make time for the gym or a regular run. But don’t count on even a daily half-hour of exercise to completely cancel out the unhealthy, unhappy effects of 11 hours in a chair.

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