Is Too Much Sitting Harming Your Body?

Scientists have long established that moving more and exercising come with an untold number of health benefits, which include everything from lowering your risk of disease and early death to greater flexibility, burning more fat, and even enhancing your imagination and creativity. But if you’re living a sedentary lifestyle and sitting too much, there are several ways in which you’re putting your body in harm’s way in both the short and long run.

To learn exactly what happens to your body when you lead an inactive life, read on for the most notable side effects of sitting too much. And for more health advice you can use starting now, make sure you’re aware of the One Major Side Effect of Walking Every Day.

How Does a Sedentary Affect Your Body?

Humans are built to stand upright. Your heart and cardiovascular system work more effectively that way. Your bowel also functions more efficiently when you are upright. It is common for people who are bedridden in hospital to experience problems with their bowel function. When you are physically active, on the other hand, your overall energy levels and endurance improve, and your bones maintain strength.
Legs and gluteals

Sitting for long periods can lead to weakening and wasting away of the large leg and gluteal muscles. These large muscles are important for walking and for stabilising you. If these muscles are weak you are more likely to injure yourself from falls, and from strains when you do exercise.

Weight

Moving your muscles helps your body digest the fats and sugars you eat. If you spend a lot of time sitting, digestion is not as efficient, so you retain those fats and sugars as fat in your body.

Even if you exercise but spend a large amount of time sitting, you are still risking health problems, such as metabolic syndrome. The latest research suggests you need 60–75 minutes per day of moderate-intensity activity to combat the dangers of excessive sitting.

Hips and Back

Just like your legs and gluteals, your hips and back will not support you as well if you sit for long periods. Sitting causes your hip flexor muscles to shorten, which can lead to problems with your hip joints.

Sitting for long periods can also cause problems with your back, especially if you consistently sit with poor posture or don’t use an ergonomically designed chair or workstation. Poor posture may also cause poor spine health such as compression in the discs in your spine, leading to premature degeneration, which can be very painful.

Anxiety and Depression

We don’t understand the links between sitting and mental health as well as we do the links between sitting and physical health yet, but we do know that the risk of both anxiety and depression is higher in people that sit more.

This might be because people who spend a lot of time sitting are missing the positive effects of physical activity and fitness. If so, getting up and moving may help.

Cancer

Emerging studies suggest the dangers of sitting include increasing your chances of developing some types of cancer, including lung, uterine, and colon cancers. The reason behind this is not yet known.

Heart Disease

Sitting for long periods has been linked to heart disease. One study found that men who watch more than 23 hours of television a week have a 64 per cent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than men who only watch 11 hours of television a week.

Some experts say that people who are inactive and sit for long periods have a 147 per cent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Diabetes

Studies have shown that even five days lying in bed can lead to increased insulin resistance in your body (this will cause your blood sugars to increase above what is healthy). Research suggests that people who spend more time sitting have a 112 per cent higher risk of diabetes.

Varicose Veins

Sitting for long periods can lead to varicose veins or spider veins (a smaller version of varicose veins). This is because sitting causes blood to pool in your legs.

Varicose veins aren’t usually dangerous. In rare cases, they can lead to blood clots, which can cause serious problems (see deep vein thrombosis, below).

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Sitting for too long can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), for example on a long plane or car trip. A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the veins of your leg.

DVT is a serious problem, because if part of a blood clot in the leg vein breaks off and travels, it can cut off the blood flow to other parts of the body, including your lungs, which can cause a pulmonary embolism. This is a medical emergency that can lead to major complications or even death.

Stiff Neck and Shoulders

If you spend your time hunched over a computer keyboard, this can lead to pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders.

How Can You Save Your Health From the Dangers of Sitting?

If you’re not getting enough activity in your day, it’s not too late to turn it around and gain great health benefits in the process.

1. Build More Activity Into Your Day

Some ways you can incorporate activity into your day are:

Walk or cycle, and leave the car at home.
For longer trips, walk or cycle part of the way.
Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, or at least walk up the escalator.
Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
Park further away from wherever you’re going and walk the rest of the way.
Calculate how long it takes you to walk one kilometre – you may find you can reach your destination faster by walking than if you wait for public transport.

2. Be Active

If you’re new to physical activity, or if you have a health condition, speak to your doctor before you start any new activities. They can help you decide the best activities for you. Read more about physical activity and how to get started.

Search for your local Registered Exercise Professional or Registered Fitness Business for professional advice and ongoing support.

If you’re getting active outdoors, remember to protect yourself from the sun by applying sunscreen and wearing sun-protective clothing, including a hat.

3. Be Active at Work

You can move around at work more than you think:

Take the stairs instead of the lift.
Walk over and talk to your colleagues instead of emailing them.
Take your lunch break away from your desk and enjoy a short walk outside if you can.
Organise walking meetings.

4. Be Active Indoors

Don’t let bad weather stop you from being active! You can do body weight exercises such as squats, sit-ups, and lunges.

You can also try indoor activities such as:

Dancing
Swimming at an indoor pool
Yoga
Pilates
Martial arts
Squash
Indoor rock climbing.

5. Reduce Your Sedentary Behaviour

Here are some simple ideas to keep you moving while you’re at home:

When you’re tidying up, put items away in small trips rather than taking it all together.
Set the timer on your television to turn off an hour earlier than usual to remind you to get up and move.
Walk around when you’re on the phone.
Stand up and do some ironing during your favourite television shows.
Rather than sitting down to read, listen to recorded books while you walk, clean, or work in the garden.
Stand on public transport, or get off one stop early and walk to your destination.
Stand up while you read emails or reports.
Move your rubbish bin away from your desk so you have to get up to throw anything away.
Use the speaker phone for conference calls and walk around the room during the calls.