In a world of smartphones and virtual personal assistants, we have a slew of technology at our fingertips and we have become more and more sedentary because of it. There is an application on your phone for pretty much anything you want or need, eliminating the need to get up and move. Socializing, shopping, work, and entertainment can all be done from the couch. This might seem like a great advance of the future, but what are the consequences of such a sedentary lifestyle? It turns out they could be much graver than we thought. These are the five ways sitting down too long is killing you.
We all know that obesity is an ever increasing-epidemic. Obesity has a long list of its own health risks. Why is this weight problem becoming so common? There are many causes, but one big cause is the sedentary lifestyle that has become the norm for most people.
With technology making a rise, more jobs are done from an office chair than out in the field. Have you ever heard of “the office tire”? It’s the additional weight around the midsection that we gain after working at an office job. It is caused by the increased time you spend sitting down.
Simply put, our bodies are meant to be active the majority of the time. When they’re inactive for long periods they begin to shut down. Our muscles don’t burn fat when we’re inactive. The simple act of standing up and holding your own body weight prompts your body to start functioning. Even non-exercise movements like standing or walking can make a huge difference.
Fatty acids begin to build up and make it harder for your heart to pump out the blood it needs when your body has been sitting for too long. The risk of heart and cardiovascular disease is increased by 125% for people who sit for more than 5 hours a day. The effects that excess sitting has on our body makes us extremely more likely to have a heart attack, develop high blood pressure, and/or develop other heart problems.
Increased activity throughout the day will greatly reduce the risk of heart problems. Even doing a rigorous workout every day cannot counter the effects that a sedentary lifestyle has on your body. 30 minutes of activity cannot undo 20 hours of sitting. Make your heart happy by taking a few walks around the office every hour.
Sitting down for long stretches can actually increase the risk of cancer. Colon, breast, pancreatic, endometrial, lung, and uterine are all types of cancer that have shown a significant increase in people that sit too much. The increased risk of cancer is caused by an increase of insulin in the body. The pancreas is the organ that manages our insulin levels. When our body is sedentary for too long it loses its ability to properly respond to insulin, often resulting in overproduction. This increase causes cells to grow and multiply, which causes cancer cells.
A body in rest mode for too long can develop digestive and intestinal disorders. These disorders can range from discomfort to downright miserable and dangerous. When we sit down immediately after eating our body digests slower. This is because we’re causing the contents in our stomachs to compress. Do you ever get bloated, cramps, or heartburn after eating? It could be caused by sitting down after you eat.
Slowing down the digestion process by sitting down can cause more than mild discomfort. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), constipation and celiac can also develop from excess sitting.
Muscle and Skeletal Problems
Back neck and shoulder problems are extremely common in those who spend long hours sitting, especially in front of a computer. When sitting at a desk in front of a computer we often lean forward, hunch and look down. This kind of posture leads to kinks and imbalanced vertebrae. This is something I can personally attest to. I work a 9-5 job at a desk and write articles part time when I go home. Most of my days are spent hunched over a computer screen. I was considering seeing a chiropractor when I couldn’t find relief for my back pain. After learning about the dangers of long hours spent sitting I requested a standing desk for work. It’s been a month and I cannot begin to tell you how much better my back feels.
Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spine. The bones are meant to contract and expand with your movement. Sitting for long periods keeps those bones compressed. You’re even more likely to get herniated disks from excessive sitting.
Muscle degeneration also occurs when you sit for too long. Standing stretches the hip flexors, which can become stiff if not extended and stretched enough. It also affects your glutes and abdominal/core muscles. You don’t have to have washboard abs, but you need a strong core to protect your back and internal organs. Standing requires the use of those muscles, therefore strengthening them when they’re in use.
Being able to socialize, order food, change the channel, and turn off your lights without ever leaving the couch may seem like a good deal. But think about all the things you’re risking: obesity, heart problems, cancer, intestinal disorders, muscle, and bone issues. Is it worth it? Standing and walking more often isn’t a rigorous and painful workout. It is a simple change that can add years to your life and get rid of your back and shoulder pain with a cost effective dose of time on your feet.