The Sedentary Life: The 10 Dangers of Sitting Too Much and What To Do About It
One of the most common positions we find ourselves in is the sitting position. We sit during our daily commute, whether that be in an automobile or on public transit. We sit throughout the workday while at our desks.
We often sit when we get home, whether at the dinner table or in front of the television. This means that on average, the majority of individuals are sitting between six and ten hours a day with little opportunity for movement.
Unfortunately, our bodies are not built to consistently sit. As a result, we suffer through ailing mental health, and a higher risk of early death. We also put ourselves at increased risk for chronic health problems like heart disease, cancer, and obesity. In this post, we will explore the sedentary life – how the dangers of sitting can be detrimental to your health and how to prevent it!
How Does the Sedentary Life Affect Your Well-Being?
We all know that too much sitting is bad for us. However, we can’t see exactly what happens to our bodies when we park ourselves for an extended period of time. It is very difficult to imagine the potential risks that prolonged sitting has on our health. Below, we look at what happens when you sit for longer than a few hours at a time.
Potential organ damage: Although this is covered in more depth below, prolonged sitting can cause damage to your heart, pancreas, and other organs. Inactivity means your body is unable to reduce harmful factors like free radicals, slow insulin responses, and high levels of bad cholesterol.
The brain suffers: When you are moving, you are pumping oxygen and fresh blood to your brain, releasing chemicals that enhance your mood. When you are not active, these chemicals don’t get pumped as frequently, which may contribute to brain fog and decreased brain function.
Muscle degeneration: When slumped in a chair, not only do you create weak abdominal, but your back muscles become tighter. This can exaggerate the back’s natural arch and lead to back pain. This can also lead to a strained neck, sore shoulders, and sore back muscles from being slumped forward.
In addition, people who sit for hours rarely move their hip flexors, leading to decreased hip mobility and a lower range of motion. Finally, your glute (buttocks) muscles can weaken, hurt stability, and limit your stride.
Weight gain: Another effect of sitting for prolonged periods is a decrease in the amount of LPL activity. LPL stands for lipoprotein lipase activity, which helps us burn fat. Too much sitting leads to inactive muscles. According to a study reported in The Journal of Physiology, this muscle inactivity may impede LPL in the skeletal muscle cells that allow free fatty acids to be used for energy instead of fat storage.
Poor blood circulation: Although this generally goes unnoticed, when we sit, our blood pools in our legs and feet, which leads to poor blood circulation. Moving your body for short periods at a time helps improve blood circulation. Better blood circulation allows oxygen, water, and other nutrients to reach your organs and muscles more efficiently.
Increase heart disease risk: When we sit for prolonged periods of time, our blood circulation slows down and becomes poorer. We burn less fat and have higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All of which contribute to an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Increase risk for type-2 diabetes: There is a higher risk of diabetes in those who are physically inactive, as decreased muscle mass lowers insulin sensitivity. This means that the cells in your body respond slower to insulin, increasing the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. A study conducted in 2017 showcased that the total time sitting has little association with the type-2 diabetes risk for the population as a whole, but specifically correlates to those who are completely physically inactive.
Chronic pain: If you suffer from a ton of pain in your neck, back, hips, legs, and shoulders that never seems to go away, you may be suffering from chronic pain stemming from sitting all day. The longer you sit throughout the day, the more likely you are to have a bad sitting form or posture. This could lead to weaker musculoskeletal connections and more pain-related conditions.
Anxiety and depression: People who sit all day may not be getting regular exercise. When you are regularly exercising, not only is your body more efficient at regulating hormones, but you may also get the potential mood-boosting effects that come with physical activity. For example, exercise has been shown to increase serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps with regulating appetite, mood, and sleep. Endorphins are natural mood enhancers and have been shown to increase with regular exercise and physical movement.
Cell growth in some cancers: One of the scariest side effects of sitting for a prolonged period is the potential increase in some cancers. Although the exact correlation isn’t clear, research suggests that sedentary behavior can boost the body’s production of insulin. This boosts and encourages cancer cell growth in lung, uterine, breast, colon, and endometrial cancers. Some contributing factors include metabolic dysfunction, inflammation, weight gain, and hormone fluctuations, all of which are exacerbated by sitting for prolonged periods.
How to Reduce the Dangers of Sitting Too Much!
Your first priority should be to build more activity into your day. Whether walking or cycling to work, using the stairs instead of the elevator, getting off the bus at an earlier stop, or heading out for a walk on your lunch break, you should find small ways to become more active. Other ways, that many people don’t consider, include:
- Alternating between sitting and standing, if working at a desk, be sure to take at least a small walk every thirty minutes.
- Stand up and walk around at least every 20 minutes while at your computer or desk reading emails.
- Walk to your co-worker’s desk instead of calling them on the phone to ask a question.
- Try walking for at least 10 minutes of your lunch break.
- For those in transportation-related jobs, like a bus driver, train engineer, taxi driver, etc. that require sitting for extended periods of time, if permissible, every few stops, try standing up, moving in place and/or just stretching for a few seconds.
- Take small trips to extend your activity levels while tidying up around the home
- Stand and pace while talking on the phone.
- Play audiobooks while you clean or go for a walk.
- Move your trash bin as far away as possible so you have to walk farther to use it.
- Use a wobbly exercise ball or backless stool to encourage you to sit in a chair with correct posture. Be sure to maintain a straight back with your feet flat on the floor.
- Be sure to stretch your body out at least once to twice each day. This is especially helpful to your hip flexors!
- Get up and take a walk during the commercial breaks while watching your television shows.
Keep in mind that you do not necessarily have to go “gung-ho” and ramp up your exercise and physical activity levels like crazy. Just doing the small things, like taking short walking breaks or switching up taking the stairs or elevator can help immensely for reducing your risk for heart disease and circulation problems. By incorporating small, easily doable exercise routines into your daily life, you will eventually not even realize how active you truly are!
If you found this article useful, please share it. We’d greatly appreciate it!