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Is sitting the new smoking?

The negative effects of smoking are many and have been widely documented for many years now. Cigarette packs continue to display graphic pictures of how we may be affected. In spite of this 7.4 million adults in the UK or about 15% of the population continue to smoke compared with a worldwide figure of 20%.

Recent studies show that there are about 120,000 UK deaths per year as a result of smoking as against about 70,000 deaths resulting from a sedentary lifestyle. However the figures are narrowing as each year less people are smoking but more have a sedentary lifestyle that includes long periods of sitting at their workplace.

The negative effects of smoking include problems relating to the heart, lungs, stomach, brain, skin and fertility. The lungs are by far the most commonly affected with about 84% of all lung cancer deaths directly linked to smoking.

Health issues relating to prolonged sitting include heart disease, back pain, weight gains, developing type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. By far the worst statistically is back pain. The number of people experiencing neck or back pain each week has alarmingly risen from 40% in 2012 to 49% in 2017 (1). About 20% now blame their work as he key trigger of pain.

Top tips;

1) When sitting at work ensue that your desk/screen is set up to support an ergonomically comfortable position. Your head weighs almost 5 kilos and needs support. Try to position your screen so that you are not compelled to look down.

2) If you have a desk related job, take a 2 litre bottle of water to work each day. Drinking this will ensure several trips away from your desk.

3) Try a few regular shoulder exercises including shrugs, rolls and stretches.

4) Prolonged sitting results in several muscle groups becoming weak and this creates a weakened ‘core’. A regular weekly Pilates session can help you to improve your core strength which means that your neck and back will be better supported. Your posture can also improve and you will become more posture aware.

5) If you have persistent pain seek the advice of a health professional such as a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist or your GP.

Smoking can be lethal. Neck and back pain are not lethal but they can make your life a misery, although they don’t have to.

(1). British Chiropractic Association October 2018.


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