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Too much Sitting Damages the Health

The summer holiday is over and autumn is here. For many of us it means that we sit in the office chair for much of the day. "Sitting-still is a major health threat in today's western world. However, a little can make a big difference," says Karin Weman (formerly Josefsson), a doctoral student in psychology.

More people, for every day that goes by, have a job sitting in front of a computer. We drive cars more and we watch more television. There are many advantages with being active. This is something we all know. Research shows that too much sitting is dangerous; even for people who are physically active. One or two workouts a week are obviously good, but it does not help if you are mainly sitting for the rest of the time.

"Sitting-still influences the health negatively, on parity with smoking. Our bodies are made for moving about and if this does not happen, organs start to break down," says Karin Wemen.

Bad Habits

Sitting still for a long period of time is connected to, among other things, obesity, diabetes as well as heart disease. It weakens the bones and muscles making the body easily worn. It also affects the secretion of important hormones that affect our mood and the body's own pain relief system. But as Karin Weman points out, "It is important not to become intimidated, but instead look to the possibilities."

"The good thing is that you do not have to do too much to make a big difference. For a completely untrained person, just getting up from the couch during the commercial break when watching television can make a difference. The important thing is not to sit still for several hours at a time," says Karin.
When it comes to work, think about getting out of the office chair now and then, raise your desktop for a while, go to the coffee machine or maybe take a stroll during your lunch-break. These small daily habits can mean a lot to your health.

Regular physical activity is a protective factor, something which is particularly important for those with "sitting still" jobs. Therefore, the fitness activities that many workplaces (including Halmstad University) offer are of importance. It might just be the little nudge we need to take the step to healthier habits.

"Irrespective of how much money an employer focuses on healthcare, they cannot lose in the long run. A workplace has everything to gain by having physically active personnel - especially if many of the staff have sitting-still jobs - it increases both the physical and mental wellbeing," says Karin Weman.

The Importance of Health and Wellness

Karin Weman has previously worked in a research project concerning digital health and wellness programmes at different places of work. She has just begun her doctoral studies and her thesis will address how digitally based facilities can promote physical activity. She thinks Halmstad University's health and wellness programme is good, offering a wide range of activities, however, she would like to see it develop even further.

"The people who go to the activities, and continue, are often those who are already active and have an interest in training. The challenge is to reach new groups and get people to really change their habits. I would like to see more individual support and focus on the mental areas based on the research available," says Karin.

So why is it so difficult to change ones habits? Studies do show that half of all those that start training finish within three to six months.

"The most common mistake we make is that we only think we are going to a lot of things e.g. training, but what we must do is really plan it into our schedules. And above all, prioritise it."

Another common mistake is that we strive for too much. We set too bigger goals that we cannot live up to. Therefore, the risk is high that our demanding training targets are suddenly perceived as a failure. So we give up.
"A useful tip is to start small. It is better to have small realistic goals and increase gradually. It is also important to be tough with yourself. Everyone has to fight to get into a new routine and you have not failed until you give up," says Karin Weman.

Text and photo: IDA LÖVSTÅL

Our bodies are made for motion and if they are not used they break down, says Karin Weman, a doctoral student in psychology at Halmstad University.

Updated 2011-10-11