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You’re sitting (and staring) too much

sitting_mainIf you’re on social media (or simply don’t live under a rock) then you’re likely savvy to the health trends taking over pop culture. Kale is in and carbs are out. Be sure to hit 10,000 steps per day. Eat only what you can kill or grow to get back to your true, paleolithic roots in order to live your best life.

But here’s the thing: Our neanderthal grandfathers didn’t have 401(k)s. They didn’t have student loans or electricity bills. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. their only concerns were eating, sleeping and moving fast enough to outrun the next ice age.

Of course the millennial man sits more than cavemen did. And if you’re in a deskbound profession like the law (or, erm, journalism) then 10,000 daily steps may not be easy to reach.

The sedentary nature of the legal profession is one of the top physical health concerns the Virginia State Bar addressed in its wellness report earlier this year. The report links to studies on the health concerns from sitting for too long, including obesity, high blood pressure and cancer.

But enough of that. You’ve already heard about the physical toll that sitting takes on the body. Have you ever considered the health impacts it has on your mind?

Similarly to your body, your brain depends on good blood flow and glucose metabolism to function properly. And if you don’t move regularly, blood doesn’t flow to your mind, which increases the risk of glitches in brain function. More pressing, however, are the psychological effects rooted in what people tend to do while sitting for too long. They may stare at a screen rather than emotionally connect with others; they may multitask between emails, texts and social media rather than honing their attention; they may have their shoulders hunched and necks craned for hours staring at electronic devices.

In other words, sitting too much is no longer your only problem: Staring too much can cause just as much harm.

If your lifestyle keeps you glued to your chair and computer all day, consider other activities besides getting up for a walk every few hours. These include:

  • Talking to coworkers for emotional stimulation.
  • Turning your phone off to rest your eyes.
  • Reading a book instead of watching TV to engage your mind.

Whatever works for you, be sure to take time every day to get out of your chair and away from a screen. You’ll likely to live longer – not to mention have a happier life – if you do.

— Maura Mazurowski