REHAB IN MOTION: Get off your duff for good health’s sake

In my physiotherapy practice, I see many clients struggling with aches and pains associated with prolonged sitting and postural dysfunction.

As if we need any more reason to get off our duffs, it now seems that prolonged sitting may lead to something more sinister than a crick in the neck.

Research presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research annual conference suggests that sedentary behaviour is emerging as a risk factor for certain kinds of cancers.  It seems that the longer you sit, the higher your risk regardless of your fitness level or how much exercise you do at other times of the day.

This is particularly alarming as the average Canadian spends nine to ten hours sitting each day—eating, commuting, working at a desk, watching television, etc.

The news gets even worse when you consider that muscles which don’t contract for several hours start to undergo harmful metabolic changes.

When muscles are left idle too long, they have lower levels of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase.

This enzyme is responsible for drawing fat from the bloodstream into the muscles where it is burned as fuel.

When muscles don’t need fuel, that fat stays circulating in the bloodstream where it can wreck havoc elsewhere in the body.

Now the good news: the evidence also suggests that you can reduce the harmful effects of a sedentary job by interrupting prolonged bouts of sitting with short breaks.

The AICR recommends we break every hour of sitting with one to two minute breaks for physical activity.

This is in addition to the recommended minimum of 150 minutes/week of moderate to strenuous exercise that we should all be getting.

The recent links between prolonged sitting and cancer as well as other metabolic disorders support the recommendations to workplace health that physiotherapists have long been touting.

These recommendations include:

n Set a timer on your computer or watch to remind you every 60 minutes to step away from your desk to take a short walk, climb a flight of stairs, or engage in some postural correction exercises

n If you are chairing a meeting expected to last longer than an hour, remember to schedule a standing/walking break

n Use a wireless headset to allow you to stand and walk during phone calls rather than staying seated

n If your workplace space allows for it, consider using a counter height surface or a full-fledged standing desk for some of your tasks

If you’re getting too much bum-in-seat time, the Physiotherapists at Rehabilitation in Motion can help you butt out the sedentary habit. We are university-trained in exercise prescription— including cardio-vascular, flexibility, posture, and strength forms of exercise.

We’ll get you moving, no if’s and’s or—ahem—buts about it.


David Pechter is a physiotherapist at Rehab in Motion. For more information call Rehab in Motion clinics in Campbell River (250-923-3773), Courtenay (250-334-9670) and Port Alberni (250-723-9675) or visit

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