The most dangerous thing you do all day?

Based on the work we do at Primal Human Performance, we see a lot of people come in with all sorts of aches and pains to be treated by our physiotherapists, chiropractors, and registered massage therapists.

That’s not surprising.

What would be considered surprising to most people is that a majority of these injuries would not be considered acute injuries. Sure they may have acute onset such as the bending-down-to-play-with-the-kids back pain, the direct-contact sports injuries, the post-surgical rehab, and the fall-related ouchies.

However, most of these have underlying causes that have built up over time through repetitive strain or overuse.

The biggest culprit?

Through our assessments we’ve noticed that for a vast majority of people, the one fairly constant dangerous (in)activity that they do on a regular basis for prolonged periods of time is…


And unfortunately, most people unknowingly considered this a fairly benign part of their daily life.

We typically start our sitting in the morning at the breakfast table, then continue with our sitting during the commute to work or school, then we sit at our desks until lunch where we just shift our sitting from the office chair to the lunchroom chair.

Then, after lunch, most of us will return to our desks to carry on with the same form of sitting that we did all morning. At the end of the workday, we have our seated and sedentary commute home to look forward to.

Finally we arrive at home,  the television is switched on for some well deserved post-work relaxation before supper, which will take place while seated on the soft, comfy couch. Post-supper, the same posteriors are plunked back down on those plush cushions for some more relaxing reality-TV.

Then we do the same thing the next day. And the next day after that. And the day after that.

While the above may not apply to everyone, there are a significant number of people who would have no difficulty in seeing their daily routine played out as noted.

Here’s the rub…

This pattern of inactivity which plays out in millions of lives every day has fairly serious health consequences.

A recent editorial press release for the British Journal of Sports Medicine entitled: “Are we facing a new paradigm of inactivity physiology?” nicely sums up some of these dangers.

The authors discuss how recent studies suggest that long periods of sitting and “whole-body” inactivity (what we term sedentary behaviour) are “strongly associated with obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and cancer, as well as total mortality.”

We don’t know about you, but we think that those are some pretty serious consequences from the simple act of sitting for too long.

The authors propose their new paradigm which consists of the following four tenets:

  1. Sitting and limiting non-exercise activity may independently increase disease risk
  2. Sedentary behaviour is a distinct class of behaviour with specific determinants and effects on disease risk, separate from the behaviour of leisure-time exercise.
  3. The molecular and physiological responses in the human body of too much sitting are not always the same as the responses that follow a bout of additional physical exercise.
  4. People already insufficiently physically active will increase their risk even further by prolonged sitting time.

The authors conclude that there are actually two behaviours (and their resulting effects) that we need to address:

  1. The benefits of regular moderate to vigorous intensity physical exercise
  2. The risks of too much sitting and limited non-exercise everyday life activity

So what can you do about it and how can you avoid these serious dangers of sitting for too long?

First, make it a priority to get a dose of moderate to vigorous intensity physical exercise. Moderate and vigorous here means moderate and vigorous for you, in your current state. If you are currently inactive, sedentary, or out of shape, you don’t need to start doing an hour of Ironman training a day. Just get started with five or ten minutes of physical activity and build from there. And it really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it and you enjoy it. This takes care of behaviour 1.

Second, be aware of how much time you actually spend sitting in a day and make a concerted effort to minimize it. Instead of hanging out in the cafeteria for your whole lunch hour, take a brisk walk for 30 minutes. Instead of fighting for that seat on the bus or subway, stand for half the commute. When watching TV, get up and walk around during the commercials instead of flipping from channel to channel. These are just a few of the easy strategies you can implement to reduce your risk and improve your health. In the end, don’t over think it: sit less, and move more. And this takes care of behaviour 2.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know with your comments!

Yours in optimal health and ultimate performance.

Team Primal.