Today, sitting for extended periods of time has become a part of our everyday lives. Whether it be due to driving in a car, to sitting at your desk through the work day or even sitting around in your own home watching television, there is evidence that too much sitting can be unfavorable to your health. Known as ‘Sedentary behavior’, classified for its elongated periods of time sitting, it requires very low amounts of energy to be expelled. Aside from the potential of slowly crippling our bodies this sedentary behavior has been found to be adversely related to health risks such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular risks, and even premature mortality.
And while you may believe that a daily exercise routine may reverse the effects of your frequented sedentary behavior, researchers are now saying they believe that sitting for most of the day can be deadly either way. Some researchers have even made comparisons like, “sitting is the new smoking.”
11 Reasons You Should Avoid Sitting Too Much
1. HEART DISEASE
When we sit, our muscles burn less fat, which in turn makes our blood flow at a much slower rate than it should. Over time, this can encourage build up of fatty acids that can clog the heart. This may explain why people who have jobs that involve them sitting have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than those whose jobs require them to stand.
Aside from the ability to burn less fat when we are sitting, when we sit for elongated periods of time, our blood sugar levels rise too. Not only are you burning fewer calories, but doctors believe that sitting may change the way our bodies react to insulin (the hormone that helps burn sugar and carbs for energy purposes).
3. PREMATURE DEATH
According to a study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, even with regular exercise, it was found that the odds of premature death increases from sitting for long periods of time. But don’t let that be your excuse to skip the gym, continue to keep moving!
The risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancer increases as well for people who spend the larger portion of their days sitting. The increased insulin levels that encourage tumor cell growth serve as the main link between sitting and being diagnosed with these cancers. Getting up and moving around can be helpful to lower both your insulin and blood sugar.
5. OVER- PRODUCTIVE PANCREAS
Insulin seems to be the common denominator when talking about risks on your health due to too much sitting. So, it is important to understand that the organ that produces insulin is your pancreas and that it too, can be affected. While insulin helps carry glucose to our cells for energy, in an inactive body, it does not respond as readily to insulin release. Resulting in more insulin production that requires your pancreas to work overtime. Studies have found that just one day of prolonged sitting drastically reduced the insulin response in a body.
If you sit and watch a lot of tv or surf the web for hours on end, or maybe you have an office job that requires you sit all day. It’s more likely to you’ll add some pounds and be overweight. 30% more calories are burned when in a standing position whereas when sitting, your bodies circulation of lipase (a fat absorbing enzyme) shuts down, which can contribute to a larger waistline. Tel Aviv University researchers found evidence that sitting for too long will produce fatty tissue cells known as preadipocyte cells.
7. SHOULDER AND NECK STRAINS
The result of the over usage of muscles can come from sitting at a desk or computer too long. The neck pain you can begin to experience stems from the muscle strain and tension caused by sitting for elongated periods of time. When sitting at a desk, it’s likely you will slouch. This posture, called “crane neck” strains the cervical vertebrae which can lead to permanent imbalances. Poor posture can be then be caused due to the slouching as your shoulder and back muscles work to overextend.
8. SPINAL INFLEXIBILITY
When engaging our bodies actively, soft discs between our vertebrae will expand and contract acting as shock absorbers, which also aid in supplying your discs of their essential nutrients, fresh blood, and oxygen. The disks can go out of balance when sitting for long periods of time. When these disks are out of balance they become starved of these essential nutrients. The collagen that helps support the spine can also harden around tendons and ligaments which limits the flexibility in your back which also can result in your back stiffening.
9. DISK DAMAGE
Aside from limited movement depriving our disks of the nutrients mentioned above, individuals who sit for elongated periods of time are also at a higher risk for suffering from herniated lumbar disks. This is due to your spine being under heavy pressure when sitting while weight is not evenly distributed. Kelly McGonial, Ph.D. states, “When you sit, you distort the natural curve of the spine, which means your back muscles have to do something to hold your back in shape because you’re no longer using the natural curves of the spine to lift yourself up against gravity.”
10. BRAIN PERFORMANCE
It’s no surprise that when you are stationary for excess amounts of time, everything slows down. This is no exception for our brain functionality! The more we move, the more fresh blood and oxygen get pumped into our brain, and at a much faster rate, which improves the overall release of both productivity and chemicals that can be mood enhancing.
11. MUSCLE DEGENERATION
Abs: Unless you are engaging your core while you are sitting, your ab muscles tend to be loose. Unlike when we stand straight and are in a walking position and our abdominal muscles keep us upright.
Hips: If you’re looking to improve upon your flexibility, I have some bad news for you excessive sitters— as sitting can actually shorten (and tighten) your hip flexors. As people who sit rarely extend their hip flexors, this limits the range of motion and stride length. Exercises such as deep squatting, lunging, and standing hip extensions can be a great help to prevent your muscles from shortening.
Legs: When legs are weak and limp, over time this can result in a number of biomechanical issues within the body. This can be in the form of reduced stability, poor balance, and an overall increased risk of injury. The weakening of your legs can also lead to an increased risk for bone fracturing.
HOW TO TAKE A STAND FOR YOUR HEALTH
To reverse the innocent habits we have found ourselves forming that is resulting in our bodies deteriorating, there are changes you can make. Work more movement into your day: Stand up and stretch every half hour or so. Touch your toes. Take a stroll around the office, stand at your desk for part of the day, or see about getting a desk that raises if you are unable to make your own. Practicing yoga, or becoming conscious to stand tall while working on maintaining a straight posture is highly beneficial. All these things can help stop the negative effects of uninterrupted sitting and keep you on the road to good health.