Get On Up: Why Sitting for Too Long is Taking a Serious Toll on Your Health
It is no secret that excessive time spent sitting down is unhealthy, and yet sitting seems to remain the primary state in which we find ourselves throughout the day. Whether you’re sitting in the car during your morning commute, sitting at your desk at work, or sitting on the couch to relax in front of some TV after a long day, there is no denying that sitting is a major part of the modern daily routine.
So what exactly are the consequences of prolonged sitting?
It reduces blood circulation.
Sitting for long periods of time can have serious consequences when it comes to blood flow. One of the key ways to promote healthy blood circulation is through movement, so by remaining in a constant state of inactivity, it’s normal that there will be a considerable decrease in circulation. This, in turn, leads to low levels of blood flow reaching the heart and brain, which can hinder the ability of each to function properly. It also causes blood pooling in the legs and pelvis, which can lead to anything from swollen ankles to blood clots.
It can lead to weight gain.
Of course, exercise and movement are important to losing weight, so remaining stationary is likely to have the opposite effect. The impact of prolonged sitting on weight gain goes beyond a lack of exercise. When you spend too long sitting down, the problem is not only that your body is not moving, but that it is getting used to not moving. As a result, it begins to alter how it functions so as to adapt to the lack of physical demands being placed on it. One major change it makes is slowing down your metabolism. This leads to a lower number of calories being burned naturally by your body on a daily basis, as well as increased fat storage.
It can cause deterioration in your muscles.
When they are not used regularly, as is usually the case if you are sitting down for long periods of time, muscles will get weaker. After a while, this can lead to serious muscle degeneration, including shortening and tightening up of muscles in your legs, hips, abs, and back. This can then affect your balance, your stride, and your posture, particularly in regards to how it impacts your back by harming your spine and possibly altering its natural arch, among other things.
It can lead to premature death.
Not only will sitting affect your physical health in the short term, but it may pose serious long term threats, including a higher risk of early death. Prolonged sitting can contribute to an increased likelihood of suffering from diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, which can lead to a link between sitting for long periods of time and mortality.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to avoid sitting for long periods, especially if you’re mostly encountering the problem at work or on your daily commute. However, several tricks can reduce the effects of prolonged sitting. For example, you can set times in your work day to get out of your chair and take a walk around the office. You can place items in your office like the trash can far away from your desk so you have to get up to use them. If you are at home and have been sitting for too long in front of the TV, make it a point to get up and move during commercial breaks. Better yet, multitask and perform simple workouts or yoga movements while watching TV to strengthen the muscles that have been neglected during time spent sitting.
The key is to incorporate movement — no matter how simple — into your day whenever possible to turn prolonged periods of sitting into intervals of sitting. In the end, these small changes can make a huge difference.
What are your tricks for avoiding long periods of sitting down and keeping your body moving throughout the day? Share them below or tweet me @tamarahoumi