Prolonged sitting can be termed a sedentary habit. It may increase your risk of various chronic conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression. This article explains the dangers of sitting all day long and what you can do to lower your disease risk.
But what if your job involves sitting all day long? Is there something you can do to ensure your health is not compromised? Keep reading to find out the dangers of prolonged sitting and what to do to avoid sitting for too long.
Effects of Prolonged Sitting
Your body is designed to move, and every system in your body works effectively when you stay physically active. For instance, exercise promotes proper circulation throughout the body, which promotes heart health and boosts energy levels. It also promotes bowel function, thus preventing issues such as constipation.
On the other hand, sitting for too long may result in both long-term and short-term effects on your health, including:
1. Weak bones
Exercises, especially weight-bearing exercises such as walking, stimulate the bones to release new bone cells, thus replacing old bone tissues. This promotes bone strength and stability. But if you sit too long, the signaling is reduced, causing a minimal cell turn-over leading to weak bones with an increased risk of fracture and osteoporosis, especially as one gets old. See 9 Ways To Improve Bone Health Naturally.
2. Weight gain
Physical inactivity, including sitting all day long, is the greatest risk factor for weight gain, obesity, and other metabolic conditions.
Research shows that people with obesity tend to sit 2 hours longer each day than those with an average weight.
Energy expenditure is like a reward obtained after your body has fulfilled a particular assignment. So without the assignment, your energy will stay still while the incoming energy from the food you eat will continue being stored. See What Makes You Gain Weight.
Energy from food or glucose is often stored as glycogen in the liver and within your muscles. However, without any physical activity to facilitate expenditure, there will still be too much glucose circulating in the blood even after storage. This gets converted into fat and stored in different parts of the body, especially around your belly or midsection leading to central obesity.
In other words, sitting reduces the ability to burn stored fat or spend the unstored energy you get from food, which ends up being stored as fat, causing weight gain.
3. Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Sitting for too long impairs the body’s ability to utilize glucose, causing the cells to be less sensitive to insulin, a hormone that carries glucose from the blood into the cells. This will slow your metabolism, increase insulin resistance, and increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
According to research, prolonged sitting, over two weeks increased blood glucose in type 2 diabetes, while interrupting sitting sessions by standing or walking was associated with a decrease in blood glucose.
A similar study shows that walking every 15 minutes for as little as 3 minutes could be enough to control blood sugar levels.
4. Heart disease
Research shows that sitting for more than 10 hours a day increases your risk of heart disease more than those who sit for five hours or even less. See How To Prevent Heart Disease?
For instance, one study showed that men who watched television for more than 23 hours a week had a higher risk of developing a cardiovascular condition than those who watched 11 hours or less.
Besides, sitting for long hours may increase your risk of suffering stroke or a heart attack by 147 percent, according to experts.
5. Stiff shoulder and neck
Sitting all day long may cause a significant postural strain in your shoulders, neck, and back. In particular, slouching can slowly pull your neck muscles, causing stiffness and pain.
6. Varicose veins
Varicose veins are enlarged, dilated, and twisted veins filled with blood, often due to faulty or damaged valves. They often occur in the legs and feet. 8 Life-Changing Benefits Of Exercise.
Prolonged sitting in one place prevents your body from actively pumping blood throughout the body. It also puts a strain on the veins to work harder in moving blood to the heart resulting in varicose veins, swollen ankles, and in severe cases, a blood clot, also known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT). Read More.
7. It’s linked to early death
Numerous studies have shown that the more sedentary you are, the more likely you will die early.
One of the studies found that a sedentary lifestyle increased the risk of dying early by 22-49%.
How To Counter The Effects Of Prolonged Sitting
1. Practice good sitting posture
Perfecting your posture may help prevent common muscle tension and joint pain associated with prolonged poor sitting positions if you work a desk job.
According to the United States Department of Labor, a good sitting posture includes:
- Keep your spine and body in a neutral position.
Your neck, head, and torso should be upright, your elbow at a 90-degree angle, your hands and forearm parallel to the floor, and your feet flat on the floor to support the leg. Or, rest your feet on a footrest if they aren’t touching the floor.
- Keep your abdominals pulled in.
When you sit, keep your abdominal muscles pulled in so that they protect your lower back. This will help reduce pressure on your spine and relieve tension in your lower stomach area.
- Keep your thighs parallel to each other and flexed at the knee.
When you sit, keep your thighs parallel to each other and flexed at the knee so that you don’t put excess pressure on your joints. This will also help improve blood circulation in your legs and feet.
- Place a pillow or rolled-up towel between your thighs if you’re uncomfortable with keeping them parallel to each other. This will help reduce pressure on your knees
2. Take regular breaks
It’s a fact that the average American spends nearly eight hours sitting every day. This can contribute to a variety of health problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, and even diabetes. One way to counter this is by incorporating breaks into your daily routine. Studies have shown that breaks can help reduce fatigue-related cognitive decline and increase productivity!
If you can stand and walk around every 20 minutes, do it. Otherwise, take advantage of every opportunity to ensure you are on your feet most of the time. For instance, if you’re answering office calls, do it while standing unless you need to take notes.
3. Stretch out
Stretching has long been known to be beneficial for overall health and wellbeing. It can help counteract the negative effects of too much sitting, including increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
According to a study published in the journal Medicine & Science, stretching may also reduce the risk of developing chronic lower back pain. While it is important to note that not all stiffness and pain associated with sitting can be alleviated by stretching, it is an important part of a healthy routine. If you are experiencing any discomfort from sitting for extended periods of time, give stretching a try. It may help improve your overall well-being!
Additionally, stretching can enhance flexibility, which is key for maintaining balance and preventing injuries. This should help improve your flexibility as well as reduce the likelihood of developing chronic pain in the future.
Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscles, decreases tension headaches, relieves stress, and may help calm your mind.
So if you struggle to maintain good posture due to hours spent seated at work or home, try incorporating some light stretching into your daily routine.
4. Invest in ergonomic furniture
If your company can afford ergonomic equipment such as a Standing Desk or a chair with proper lumbar support, go for it. If not, but you can afford one, prioritize your health. Ergonomic furniture not only aligns your posture but also makes you aware of your posture so you can take note of any discomfort or strain.
5. Eat away from your desk
It’s common to eat at your desk, especially if you have so much to do. However, your lunch hour may be another opportunity to keep your mind off work, calm your nerves and relax your whole body while focusing on eating. This may positively impact your health in various ways, including:
1. Weight Loss
Eating away from your desk can help you lose weight. Studies have shown that people who eat at their desks tend to have more weight problems than those who eat elsewhere. Why? Because eating at your desk tends to encourage snacking and mindless eating. Eating away from your desk allows you to control what and how much you eat, which leads to weight loss.
2. Better Health
Eating away from your desk can improve your overall health. Studies have shown that people who eat at their desks tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Why? Because eating at your desk allows you to control portion size and avoid unhealthy foods. When you eat away from your desk, you’re more likely to make healthier food choices and get the nutrients that you need for good health.
3. More Productivity
Eating away from your desk can increase your productivity. Research has shown that people who eat at their desks are more productive than those who don’t.
4. Better Communication
Eating away from your desk allows you to express yourself in a more expressive manner. Research has shown that participants who ate away from their desks were more likely to speak face-to-face, instead of emailing or texting, after a meal.
5. Better Social Interaction
Eating away from your desk can improve your social interactions. Researchers have found that people who eat at their desks tend to communicate better with others as they engage in conversation and mutual eye contact while eating.
6. Stay hydrated
Your body is 60-70 percent water, which means every cell in your body needs water to function correctly. Your joints also need water to stay lubricated. This prevents your bones from rubbing against each other. However, sitting for too long and drinking a minimal amount of water can increase pressure within the joints, causing pain and muscle stiffness.
In addition to the other tips, if you are sitting all day long, ensure you are hydrated to keep your joints and every other part healthy. See Benefits Of Drinking Water.
7. Eat healthily
A sedentary lifestyle is a significant risk factor for lifestyle diseases on its own. Including a poor diet increases the risk even further. So ensure you are eating whole or minimally processed foods and eliminating processed ones, especially refined carbs, including table sugar, white flour, white bread, soft drinks, fruit juices, and sodas. Top 10 Plant-Based Anti-Inflammatory Superfoods To Consume.
Sitting for extended periods of time can have damaging effects on your health, both physically and mentally. Not only can it increase your risk of developing serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, but it can also lead to conditions like obesity and chronic pain.
While this can be controlled, it can be a bit difficult when it’s a day-to-day work setup. Nonetheless, there are things you can do to lower the associated health risks such as taking regular breaks, maintaining a good posture, investing in ergonomic equipment, staying hydrated, eating right, and eating away from your desk.
No matter how busy your day is, try incorporating these tips to help promote your health, well-being, and productivity. If you spend too much time sitting in the office chair or at home watching TV, make sure to get up and move around every few hours to help keep your body healthy and functioning at its best.
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