Today, we live in a world where modern machines do much of our work. This fact dramatically eliminates the need for manual labor. Not to mention, over 34 million Americans have an office or sales jobs. These careers force them into sitting for eight or more hours a day.
According to a report published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the average person spends more than half of their waking hours in an inactive state. These include sitting at a computer, watching TV, commuting to and from work, etc.
So technology brings obvious benefits, such as getting more done in less time, consolidating our efforts, and connecting us to others at lightning speeds. However, it has many drawbacks, as well.
Sitting down for prolonged periods can cause chronic back pain, poor posture, and even potentially deadly diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
If you spend a lot of time sitting down for your job, take a look at how this can negatively impact your health, according to four experts in the industry.
Problems That May Result from Sitting Too Long
1 – Brain, Neck, And Shoulder Issues
Moving our bodies means more blood and oxygen flowing throughout the brain, which helps us maintain clarity and keeps our minds sharp. However, sitting for long periods slows the flow of oxygen and blood to our brains. That reduced flow inhibits our ability to think clearly.
Also, slumping forward at work to stare at a computer screen puts tremendous strain on the neck, particularly the cervical vertebrae, which connect the spine to your head. Poor posture also damages the back and shoulder muscles, as they become overextended due to leaning over a keyboard for long periods.
2 – Back Problems From Too Much Sitting
One of the most apparent problems occurs for most people in their backs, as bad posture contributes greatly to back pain, inflexible spines, and disk damage. Moving around causes soft disks between vertebrae in the spine to expand and contract, allowing blood and nutrients in. The disks become uneven and compact by sitting too long, even causing collagen to build up around tendons and ligaments.
Also, herniated lumbar disks occur more frequently in people who spend prolonged periods in front of a computer.
3 – Muscle Degeneration
Sitting doesn’t require using your ab muscles, and if they go unused for too long, this can cause you to develop what’s called swayback or the unnatural overextension of the spine’s natural arch. Plus, sitting too long decreases overall flexibility, particularly in the hips and back. Flexible hips aid in balancing the body, but the hip flexor muscles become short and tense by sitting too long.
The glute muscles also become soft after prolonged periods of disuse. And this hinders your ability to take long strides and keep the body stable.
4 – Deterioration of Organs
Remaining seated for long periods can cause heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer. In short, these problems are caused by the overproduction of insulin due to inactivity and sluggish blood flow to the organs. Regular movement helps kill cancer-causing cells, boosting antioxidants that eliminate these free radicals from taking over the body.
Overproduction of insulin also causes weight gain, contributing to diabetes and obesity.
5 – Leg Disorders
Sitting too long will hinder circulation in the legs. This causes blood to pool around the ankles, which then results in swollen ankles, varicose veins, and even harmful blood clots. Another more subtle issue caused by prolonged sitting is that bones become weaker and less dense. Regular activity, such as running or walking, helps keep bones strong and thick. This might explain why so many older adults today have osteoporosis, as society becomes more and more sedentary.
According to the study, people who watched the most TV over 8.5 years had a 61% greater risk of dying prematurely than those who watched less than one hour per day.
First of all, if you DO have to sit for long periods for work or other purposes, make sure you sit up straight and avoid slouching or leaning over your keyboard. If you have to, buy an exercise ball. That tool forces your ab muscles to work and will naturally keep your body straight. You can also use a backless stool if you want something more stable than an exercise ball.
Secondly, make sure to get up regularly to stretch. How often should you do this? At least once every thirty minutes, according to experts. Get up and walk around your office for a few minutes as well. That short break from sitting will keep the blood flowing and allow your brain and muscles to function optimally.
Thirdly, yoga can help immensely keep the muscles flexible and allow the mind to relax and decompress from the workday. You can also buy a standing work desk, which will force you to do your work in an upright position. This helps blood and oxygen flow more freely through the body. Thus, it reduces the risk of blood clots and other dangerous health problems.
6. Sitting Too Much Can Contribute to Dementia
Many things can increase your chances of developing dementia, but who would have thought sitting too much would be one of them? Understandably, having a sedentary lifestyle would increase the chances of growing conditions like diabetes, but it also dramatically impacts the brain. If all you need to do to keep your mind sharp and intact is to move more, it should be effortless to push yourself to get sufficient exercise.
7. Increases Anxiety and Depression
The mental effects of sitting too much are not as understood as other aspects, but there are risks to your mental health. People who sit for long periods are more apt to have conditions like depression and anxiety. Improving your mental health requires exercise to get those feel-good chemicals rushing, so it only makes sense that your brain lacks those powerful neurotransmitter surges when you’re not moving.
Another theory is that when you’re sedentary, like playing a video game for hours on end, it can disrupt your sleep cycle, according to the BMC Public Health. You know how terrible it is to function the next day when you’ve not had a good night’s rest. So, it’s easy to see that anxiety will be higher when your brain hasn’t had time to restore and repair damage from the previous day from insufficient sleep.
8. Weakened Bones
You’ve heard throughout your life that you need milk and calcium to have healthy bones. However, sitting for extended periods can make you susceptible to conditions like osteoporosis caused by compromised bones. Even a shower can be a real chore when your bones have become brittle and weak.
9. Sitting Too Long Could Undo All the Exercise You’ve Done
It doesn’t matter how much exercise you do during the day if you sit for hours. It’s impossible to erase the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on you. Even if you make it to the gym three times a week, you can undo all your hard work by sitting all evening and watching TV. While you need some downtime, don’t sit for long periods. It can have a dramatic effect on your waistline and your overall health.
10. Joint Pain
Have you ever noticed that if you sit too long, your joints are stiff when you get up? The stress put on your joints from sitting will cause the muscles to tighten, and you will have pain in both areas. Over time, you could be dealing with situations like osteoarthritis. Your joints are sensitive and need to move to lubricate, and when you park on a couch for hours, they’re not getting lubricated and can seize on you.
Have you ever had a car door that creeks and drives you crazy when you open it from the loud noise? A little shot of lubricant and the noise is gone. Your joints are much like this car door that needs lubrication, and when you sit, you’re only making matters worse.
11. Poor and Compromised Posture Can Result from Sitting
How many times did your parents tell you to sit up straight? They weren’t just telling you this to make you angry, and there’s a real disadvantage to having poor posture. When you sit too long, your pelvis can rotate backward, and it puts an additional strain on your lumbar area, according to the National Library of Medicine.
A sedentary lifestyle can cause your pelvis to rotate backward, and as a result, it may strain your lumbar area.
12. Digestive System Issues
Sitting on your bottom causes this area to decrease blood flow. While you know many areas of your body are compromised from a sedentary lifestyle, you probably didn’t consider that your gut would be affected.
When you’re sitting, your body’s weight compresses your organs and the blood flow to this area. It can lead to problems like constipation as the bowel isn’t getting the blood it needs to function correctly.
13. Lowered Blood Circulation
When your muscles are weary, and you’ve sat so long that you feel your legs and toes going numb, it’s a sign of circulation issues. Blood can pool in the lower parts of your legs, that’s caused by compressing certain vessels. This can lead to the feeling of pins and needles, blood clots, and varicose veins.
14. Weaken Immune System
You need to move your body to be healthy, as nutrients need that extra surge of blood flow to ensure everything works as it should. However, when you’re not working out and living a sedentary lifestyle, you’re causing great harm to your immune system. You’re more apt to get sick and have other ailments when you live life in a chair.
15. Chronic Fatigue
Chronic fatigue is a syndrome alone, but it’s also a significant component of many illnesses. However, those who work out more tend to have more energy and less fatigue. Have you ever slept in on Saturday far beyond your usual wake-up time and felt horrible?
The more sleep you get, the more your body will crave. So, if you’re feeling fatigued and there’s no other medical reason behind it, it could be from a sedentary lifestyle.
Those who play video games, surf the web and watch many TVs are more apt to have a problem with their weight than those who are active. Exercising every day is a great place to start, but this doesn’t guarantee you won’t have a weight problem. Too much screen time wreaks havoc on your body.
17. Higher Risk of Mortality
An eye-opening study from the American Journal of Epidemiology states that people who sit more than six hours each day are more than 40 percent likely to die in just over a decade. Those who spend under three hours sitting fared much better. If you want to live a longer life, you must move your body to keep it healthy.
18. Sitting Too Much Contributes to Brain Fog
Brain fog is no joke, and it’s a real problem that can occur when you sit for extended periods. Though it’s another aspect that’s not truly understood, you may feel unable to focus, have poor memory, and be unable to learn new things. When you’re not moving and in a sedentary position, your blood flow is reduced, and your feel-good chemicals aren’t surging, contributing to this hazy and lack of focused feeling.
Final Thoughts on Not Sitting Too Long
Sitting for long periods can dramatically affect your health. It can impact how you live your life and make you more susceptible to illness. It can increase your risk of untimely death, dementia, or cancer.
If you must sit for your job, make sure you get an ergonomic chair. It will help with posture and prevent degeneration of your discs and vertebrae. Do you know how many hours you sit each day? Maybe it’s time to track your sedentary habits to protect your future health.