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Sitting Is Killing You

Sitting Is Killing You

Hollywood thinks the daily work of law enforcement is all about high-adrenalin calls, foot pursuits, jumping over walls, or creeping up on suspects. The reality is there’s plenty of inactivity and sitting around. In fact, sitting could be the next silent killer of law enforcement personnel.

Let’s face it. We often joke about how a 12 hour patrol shift consists of only 30 minutes of adrenaline surging excitement, and the rest of the time is the monotony of driving around or writing reports. It’s the reality of the profession that takes a toll on us in more ways than one.

Add in the graveyard or night shift sleep patterns, stress, poor diet and the lack of hitting the gym, and it’s almost like the perfect storm for health and performance problems for a police officer. 

Sitting behind the wheel, which is technically your office, for a prolonged period of time, can do more damage than you think. Let’s eliminate the entire police world out of this discussion, and see what the civilian community is reporting on the topic. 

Dispatchers and Civilians Take Note Too

If you are a dispatcher, cadet, or records clerk, the advice and information in this article applies to you too. Don't just think the men and women carrying a badge and gun are in danger. It can affect all of us.

What's In This Article?

You're going to learn some eye opening information about what happens when you sit in a patrol car, behind the dispatch console or at the lobby counter. In fact, did you know that 6 hours of prolonged sitting negates the positive effects of one hour in the gym?

I'll explain to you the bio-mechanical effects prolonged sitting has on law enforcement personnel, and you'll get my expert tips to remedy the impact on your body, and make more positive progress as you strive for good health and fitness.

If your goal is to lose those unwanted pounds, you'll also find out part of the reason the law enforcement community struggles with this.

Sitting Is The New Smoking

Research in the last couple of years has revealed some very startling statistics and information as it relates to prolonged sitting and death. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality, causing about 3.2 million deaths per year.

Physicians, like Dr. James Levine, who is the director of the Mayo Clinic - Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, has studied the effects of physical inactivity on the human body. 

In addition to Dr. Levine’s research, additional researchers have found evidence that prolonged sitting can lead to issues such as:

  • Developing colon, endometrial and possibly lung cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Muscular issues
  • Limited fat burning
  • Depression 

The Effects Are NOT Reversible

Just like smoking, you can’t repair the damage that has already been done by prolonged sitting. However, just like everything in life, a lifestyle change can limit further damage and improve the quality of your life from here on out.

Have you ever noticed how some senior citizens have difficulty moving around later in life? According to the documents we read to compile this article, researchers believe this may be attributed to muscular issues caused by inactivity in their younger years.

Law Enforcement Personnel Who Workout Are Not Immune

Even if you work out an hour a day before your shift, then sit behind the wheel of a patrol car or a desk in the detective bureau, you are not safe. Researchers have concluded that frequent moving throughout the day is required for good health, and good fitness, as it relates to packing on the pounds.

Why Cops and Dispatchers Pack It On

So, you may be on a new workout plan, eating clean and drinking plenty of water, and the weight is simply not coming off. Contrary to this, you might hear stories about people who don’t workout, cleaned up their diet, and are dropping weight safely and faster than you. What the heck, right? 

First off, constant sitting interferes with the bodies ability to simply use fat as a source of energy. Lipoprotein Lipase, or LPL, is an enzyme that breaks down fat for use by the body for energy. One study found that LPL levels were 10 times higher in active subjects than in sedentary ones.

Second, one study completed by the Mayo Clinic came up with the following results:

  • 1000 calories were added to a group of test subject’s diet
  • Those who in the study were not allowed to exercise
  • Those who simply moved around throughout the day maintained there weight, while those who didn’t, gained weight

Last, is our shift work or sleep schedules. Trying to sleep in the daytime is simply not natural. Add in a poor diet, lack of exercise, use of alcohol and your sleep patterns can be wrecked. There are plenty of studies out there which show too little of sleep leads to cravings of energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods. Why is this?

When you’re sleep deprived, your body produces increased levels of Ghrelin and reduced levels of Leptin. The problem is, both play key roles in weight management.

Ghrelin is the hormone which tells your body it’s time to eat. Leptin is the hormone which tells your body it’s full. When the body is getting a constant barrage of signals telling it to eat, no wonder the weight gets packed on. Sleep puts the hormones in check!

Could You Survive?

When a 30 year-old man approached Philadelphia Police Officer Jesse Hartnett’s police car, and open fired on him, Officer Hartnett did not just sit there. He did what we’re all trained to do - fight. Officer Hartnett exited his patrol car, chased after the suspect and returned fire. Officer Hartnett had been shot 3 times, shattering a bone and severing an artery. 

If you’re muscles can’t function quickly and properly in a “life or death” situation, then prolonged sitting could kill you quicker than you think. 

Don’t Even Think About Moving Yet!

Okay, so we’ve convinced you that you need to start moving your butt out of the seat of the patrol car or dispatch chair. However, if you really want to make strives in becoming healthy, and more physically fit, and do it “the right way,” then keep reading.

Joint Mechanics and Injury Prevention

Many officers and dispatchers are not aware of the importance in adopting a good flexibility program to save their bodies when they spend a day patrolling or behind the radio. Tight muscles translate into altered joint mechanics and greater possibility of injury during activity. 

Take a moment and picture yourself sitting in the patrol car. If you are in fact sitting in a patrol car, look down as you read these key points!

  1. The calf on your driving leg is held in a shorted position when pushing the gas pedal or hitting the breaks. This can cause excessive tightness on one side, altering your body mechanics when you walk, run, sprint, or hit the weight room.
  2. Your hips are in a flexed (or shortened) position when you’re sitting. Tight hip flexors can lead to a number of factors that can lead to low back pain. These include altered function of your glutes, pelvic tilt, and increased curvature of your lumbar spine just to name a few.
  3. You are likely sitting with your hip in an externally rotated (foot turned out) position. This means that your piriformis, a small muscle located deep on your backside, is resting in a shortened position. This can lead to a number of other problems ranging from hip immobility to sciatica. This position can also change the line of pull of your quadriceps muscles and cause some knee discomfort.
  4. You are likely not using the abdominal muscles that stabilize your lumbar spine while you drive. This translates to postural dysfunctions at the lumbar spine, pelvis, and even further up to your thoracic and cervical spine (upper back and neck).
  5. Your arms are held out in front of you so that your hands can be on the wheel. This means your pectoral muscles are shortened for a long period of time. This can alter the resting position of your shoulder joint and further change the mechanics at your shoulder, putting you at increased risk of injury. Even if you’re the type that rests one elbow up on the door, your shoulder is still in an unfavorable position of internal rotation, still shortening your pectorals.
  6. Lastly, your cervical spine is likely supporting your head incorrectly as you forget to use the tiny, deep muscles responsible for good cervical posture. This can lead to neck pain, pain in your upper traps, and even headaches!

The TeamFFD Prescription

As a member of TeamFFD, here is your prescription for correcting or avoiding the problems listed in this article, and making positive progress in your quest for better health and fitness.

Of course, this is in addition to working out, eating healthy, drinking water and getting plenty of sleep!

#1 - Implement A Flexibility Program

By implementing a flexibility program like the one below, you can help keep your muscles at an optimal length to safeguard your joints and provide yourself with some preventative care.

Each stretch should be held for 30 seconds to 1 minute and done 2-3 times per side. 

Calf/Soleus stretch

  • For you calves, you want your knee straight and your foot angled as pictured on a step or even up against a wall. You should feel the stretch on the back of your lower leg.
  • For your soleus, a muscle just underneath your calves, slightly bend your back knee as pictured. You should feel the stretch on the back of your lower leg.

Hip Flexor stretch

  • Take a half kneeling position being mindful of keeping your hips, knees, and ankles in line with each other. Squeeze the glute on your back leg while reaching up with both hands and side bending to the opposite side. You should feel the stretch in the front of your hip on your back leg.

Piriformis stretch

  • Lying on your back, place the outside of your right foot above the left knee. Grab the left thigh and pull up toward your chest. Perform the opposite to stretch the left side. You should feel the stretch deep on your backside.

Latissimus (Lat) stretch

  • With your side adjacent to a pole or bar, reach over your head with the outside arm and grab the pole. Shift your body weight to the outside and feel the stretch underneath the reaching shoulder.

Pectoralis (Pec) stretch

  • Place your forearm flat against the doorway with your shoulder and elbow at roughly 90 degrees. Lean forward with the opposite leg stepping forward and rotate away from the side being stretched. You should feel the stretch across the chest and the front of the shoulder.

Upper trapezius (Upper Trap) stretch

  • Reach up with your hand and grab the back of your head. Rotate your head 45 degrees to either side and pull your head down to feel the stretch on the back and side of your neck.

#2 - Move For At Least 10 Minutes Every Hour

Get out of the patrol car or put on a wireless headset and walk every hour. One study showed simply getting up and moving for 2 minutes is good, while Dr. Levine recommends moving for 10 minutes every hour.   

There are some cool apps out there to help you move. One app we found, called the Stand Up App, is available on iTunes. Some of the features we liked about it were:

  • You can schedule it to only work during the days and hours you work, and
  • You can have it only function when you are at work. Should you leave your work, it will stop functioning, if you like.

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So there you have it. Get up and move and you'll not only start feeling better and losing the weight, but you just might live longer in the end!

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