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Top tips to reduce the impact of too much sitting

Thu 25 Feb 2021

We know about the negative impact of sitting down too much - both when driving and sitting indoors – but how practical is it to be able to do something about it?

According to recent research by IOSH, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, we spend 77% of the working day sat down[1].

And for those who don’t drive for a living, the chances are we get into a car at the start or end of our working day, either to get to a place of work or shopping for food, or driving to visit a friend (when permissible due to Covid restrictions!). In short, we spend too much time sitting.

This can have significant effect on our health and quality causing issues like type 2 diabetes, depression, musculoskeletal issues and cardiovascular disease[2].

So what can we do to compensate? The obvious answer is to spend less time sitting down, but when practicalities of life take over that’s not always easy. What is easy is sitting for prolonged periods to either complete a task, relax by watching TV or reading, or driving as long as possible to get to your destination. Breaking this up, and injecting intermittent standing can make a real difference.

According the IOSH research study, if you stand up for around 5 minutes every 30 minutes this delivers health benefits such as a reduction in lower back issues of 32% and a reduction in fatigue of 23%. This reduction in fatigue is particularly important when driving, as dozing off whilst at the wheel can prove fatal. The Highway Code recommends that drivers should take a 15-minute break every two hours, but with traffic jams and pressured diaries, the temptation is to drive through without a break.

Being able to move around your home is easier than building in move time whilst driving, so we have listed a few tips for staying healthy whilst driving:

Make a plan
Think where you are going to stop to stretch your legs and to eat. Then you are more likely to take the break and move during your trip. Allow a little time for a walk around when you stop – this will refresh you, loosen stiff muscles and relax you mentally.
Breaking up your drive by walking will also help prevent your hamstrings from tightening through prolonged sitting, which puts additional pressure on your back.

Whilst driving keep your mind active to reduce the chances of you losing focus on your driving and drifting off. This is particularly relevant for monotonous motorway driving. Safety Forward[3], a health and safety consultancy recommend listening to audio books. You could also listen to radio drama podcasts, sports commentaries or different styles of music.

Thinking about your posture and being conscious of when it slumps. It’s very easy to slouch and let your back curl and shoulders hunch.

Reduce tension build up in your shoulders and neck by shrugging your shoulders high up towards your ears, holding slightly then releasing. Rotate each shoulder upwards and backwards too, and gently rotate your neck left and right. Try twisting your torso from side to side slightly. This can be done whilst stationary in the car or sitting at home.

When stationary, stretch your hands and move your fingers around to release tension from gripping the steering wheel.

We hope you find these tips useful, and try and remember to keep moving!

 

 


[1] Sit less and move more at work, says new research | IOSH

[2] SMArT Work (nihr.ac.uk). It has been scientifically proven that that sitting down for long periods of time, even for those who regularly exercise, can lead to poor health. Evidence shows that people who sit a lot, in comparison to those who do not, are at a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, depression, musculoskeletal issues and cardiovascular disease. However, intermittent standing throughout the working day can promote more movement and limits sedentary behaviour.

[3] https://www.safetyforward.co.uk/driver-health-the-effects-of-sitting-down-for-long-periods-of-time/


Type of article: Articles
Category: Wellbeing

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