With the steady advancement of digital technology, prolonged sitting has become the everyday life of most people at home and in the workplaces. Most people who work in offices spend an average of ten hours a day in front of a computer, which denies them even a little opportunity to exercise throughout the day.
Unfortunately, according to research, sitting for an extended period of time can be extremely detrimental to our health. In fact, a recent study has even discovered that it can be as dangerous to your health as smoking and can greatly reduce your lifespan.
Sitting too long in that chair either watching television or doing office work can lead to a plethora of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. It can also disability and mental health problems. To help you understand the gravity of something as apparently harmless as sitting, we have rounded up seven reasons why sitting down is bad for your health.
1. Sitting too Long Leads to Weight Gain and Obesity
It’s no secret that obesity has become a major health issue, especially in the US. Obesity itself can increase your risk for various health problems such as heart attack and diabetes. One of the major causes of obesity and weight gain is physical inactivity. Leading an inactive lifestyle such as sitting for an extended period of time can increase your weight. This is because it decreases the activity of lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which in turn lowers your body’s ability to burn fat. This leads to accumulation of fat in your body and weight gain.
2. Prolonged Sitting Causes Poor Blood Circulation And Varicose Veins
Another obvious yet overlooked repercussion of prolonged sitting is poor blood circulation. Sitting too much can significantly slow down your blood circulation and lead to blood pooling in your legs and feet causing your veins to twist, swell or bulge -which is known as varicose veins. It can also lead to swollen ankles, or even the formation of blood clots in your veins, medically known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
3. Sitting too Long Increases Your Risk of Heart Disease
When your body's ability to burns fat is impaired, and blood circulation is poor, there is usually an increased risk of fatty acids and cholesterol blocking your heart arteries. This links inactive lifestyle and prolonged sitting with high cholesterol levels, hypertension, and heart disease. In fact, a certain study showed that people who spend over 23 hours a week in front of their TVs or more than ten hours a week driving a car have 64% and 82% greater risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who spend less time on these two activities.
4. Sitting too Long Increases Your Risk of Getting Cancer
Perhaps the most frightening consequence of sitting too long is the risk of getting colon, lung, breast and uterine cancer. The exact correlation isn't clear, but it could be due to the fact that an inactive lifestyle can increase insulin production in the body, which in turn accelerates cell growth. Another reason could be the fact that regular exercise has an antioxidant effect in our bodies since it reduces oxidative stress. Increased cancer risk can also be connected to metabolic dysfunction, weight gain, inflammation, and elevated hormone levels – all of which can be increased by leading a sedentary lifestyle.
5. Sitting Too Long is Associated with Chronic Body Pain
Some workplaces don't have ergonomic chairs and desks for their employees. They are forced to sit for a long period of time in a bad posture, and this can lead to chronic body pain. You'll be more likely to experience chronic pain in body areas such as your back, shoulders, neck, legs, and hips. Chronic back pain is a major health issue, especially in the US. In fact, it's considered as one of the most common work-related disabilities. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control, over 125 million American adults have a musculoskeletal pain disorder— that is pain in the neck, lower back, sciatica, joints, etc. In the same report, 20.3 percent reported having chronic lower back pain.
6. Prolonged Sitting Can Lead to Depression
Besides obesity, depression is another major mental health problem in the United States. It's estimated that 6.7% of adults have suffered from depression in a given year. One of the causes of anxiety and depression is prolonged sitting. The reason is simple: those who sit too long don’t have time for exercise which comes with health and mood boosting benefits. Also, if you stay in front of the TV or computer all day limits your social interaction and sun exposure and social interaction, which leads to a strong feeling of loneliness and vitamin D deficiency. Once anxiety and depression kick in, they may lead to more serious problems like panic attacks and even suicidal thoughts.
7. Lastly, Sitting Too Long Can Increase your Risk of Getting Diabetes
A study in 2017 examined the correlation between diabetes and sitting and found out that physically inactive people have a higher risk of diabetes than active people. The main contributing factor was prolonged sitting. The reason for this is the fact that decreased strength and muscle mass can lower insulin sensitivity, meaning that your body cells will respond slower to insulin The lower the cells' sensitivity to insulin, the greater the risk of diabetes.
So, How Do You Avoid the Negative Consequences of Prolonged Sitting
The above-mentioned side effects are understandably worrisome, but this doesn’t mean that you have to stop watching TV or quit your office. You can greatly reduce the effects of your sedentary lifestyle by simply getting up from your desk job after every thirty minutes and walking around. You might require a combination of light activity, exercise and frequent movement breaks to prevent the side effects of sitting too much. Don't just sit for 10 hours a day and expect 30 minutes of sweating out in the gym to take away all that effect. Research shows that exercise alone can't offset the consequences of sitting all day.