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 or computer. On average, most individuals are sitting between six and ten hours a day with little opportunity for movement.
Unfortunately, our bodies were not designed to sit all day. As a result, we suffer from 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 too long can be detrimental to your health and how you could 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 what happens to our bodies when we park ourselves for an extended period. It is difficult to imagine the potential risks that prolonged sitting has on our health.
Below, we briefly look at what happens when you sit for longer than a few hours at a time.
Potential organ damage: Although covered in more depth below, prolonged sitting could cause damage to your heart, pancreas, and other organs.
The brain suffers: When you move, you pump oxygen and fresh blood to your brain and release chemicals that enhance your mood. When you are not active, these chemicals don’t get pumped as frequently. It may contribute to brain fog and decreased brain function.
Muscle degeneration: When slumped in a chair, not only do you create weak abdominal muscles, but your back muscles become tighter. It can exaggerate the back’s natural arch and lead to back pain. It 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.
A study in The Journal of Physiology reported that muscle inactivity could impede LPL in the skeletal muscle cells. Muscle cells use free fatty acids for energy, decreasing their chances of being stored as fat.
Poor blood circulation: When we sit, blood pools into our legs and feet, leading to poor 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, our blood circulation slows down. We burn less fat and may end up with higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All of which contribute to an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Increases risk for type-2 diabetes: There is a higher risk of diabetes in the physically inactive, as decreased muscle mass lowers insulin sensitivity. As a result, the cells in your body respond slower to insulin, increasing the risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
A human study conducted in 2017 showcased that the total time sitting has little association with the type-2 diabetes risk but 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 an incorrect sitting form or posture. It could lead to weaker musculoskeletal connections and more pain-related conditions.
Anxiety and depression: People who sit all day may experience more bouts of anxiety or depression.
Regular exercise and small bursts of physical activity throughout the day may ease anxiety and depression. When you regularly exercise, not only is your body more efficient at regulating hormones, but you may also get the 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 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 risk increase of some cancers.
Although the exact correlation isn’t clear, research suggests that sedentary behavior can boost the body’s insulin production. This boost may encourage cancer cell growth in lung, uterine, breast, colon, and endometrial cancers.
How to Reduce the Dangers of Sitting Too Much!
Your 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 techniques include:
- Alternating between sitting and standing, if working at a desk, be sure to take at least a short 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 (bus driver, train engineer, taxi driver, etc.) that require sitting for extended periods, if permissible, every few stops, try standing up, moving in place, or just stretching for a few seconds.
- 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 with the correct posture. Be sure to maintain a straight back with your feet flat on the floor.
- Be sure to stretch your body at least once to twice each day; this is especially helpful to your hip flexors!
- Get up and take a walk (or walk-in place) during the commercial breaks while watching your television shows.
You do not necessarily have to go “gung-ho” and ramp up your exercise and physical activity to extreme levels. Doing the small things, like taking short walking breaks or taking the stairs instead of using the elevator, can help.
By incorporating small, easily doable exercise routines into your daily life, you will eventually become more active without realizing it!
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