Why Sitting is Harmful to Your Health
Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns including obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Any extended sitting whether at a desk, in the car or in front of a screen can be harmful. Numerous studies have found that those who sat for more than 8 hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.
Excessive Sitting Lead to a Greater Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes
Excessive sitting has been associated with heart failure, a condition in which the heart becomes progressively weaker and unable to pump enough blood to keep the rest of the body oxygenated and well. Scientists first noticed something was up in a study that compared two similar groups: transit drivers, who sit most of the day, and conductors or guards, who don’t. Though their diets and lifestyles were a lot alike, those that spent the day sitting were about twice as likely to get heart disease compared to those that stood.
Sitting down for long periods can result in changes in the body’s metabolism, including insulin resistance, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. A study surveyed 63,048 middle-aged Australian men about how long they sit during an average day as well as diagnoses of any chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. The study found the more time participants sat, the higher their risk for type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases, even among the men who exercised regularly.
Dementia Is More Likely
Researchers surveyed 35 people between the ages of 45 and 75 who did not have dementia about their physical activity levels and the average hours per day they spend sitting. Participants also underwent MRIs to look at the temporal lobe, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories. The researchers found that more sitting led to thinner medial temporal lobes, which can be an early sign of cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults.
Too Much Time in a Chair Wrecks Your Back
Your seated position puts a massive amount of stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine. It’s even worse if you’re a sloucher. If your work requires a lot of time in a chair, consider looking for an ergonomic chair that is the right height and supports your back in the proper spots. Remember, your back still won’t like a long session at your desk, so get up and move around for a few minutes every half hour to keep your spine in line.
Is Too Much Sitting Making You Anxious?
Researchers combed through the scientific literature for research on the association between sedentary behavior and anxiety. They found nine studies and taken as a whole, these studies offer some evidence of an association between your chair time and your anxiety risk. All the studies could show associations between things, but they couldn’t determine cause and effect. So while there are plausible theories about how prolonged sitting might breed anxiety, more research is needed to confirm them.
How to Sit Less
You might start by simply standing rather than sitting when you have the chance or finding ways to walk while you work. Here are a few tips to help you break your bad sitting habits
- Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes.
- Stand while talking on the phone or watching television.
- If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.
- Walk with your colleagues for meetings rather than sitting in a conference room.
- Position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk — so that you can be in motion throughout the day.
More study is needed on the effects of sitting and physical activity on health. However, it seems clear that less sitting and more moving overall contribute to better health.
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That’s it for now.