10 Risks of Sitting Down too Much
Have a seat. Pull up a chair. Rest your feet. No doubt someone has greeted you in this manner before. And their intention was only to make you comfortable, not to endanger your health. But if you stay in a sitting position for too long, you can actually increase your risk of an early death. You also decrease your level of health, severely diminish your productivity and mental awareness, and promote heart and respiratory inefficiency. And you can shave years off of your life. Recent studies conducted all around the world show that the pressure placed on the back of your thighs after sitting for extended periods of time inhibits healthy blood flow and circulation throughout your body.
Your lack of movement also means your heart beats slower. This contributes to diminished levels of oxygen and a weaker blood flow. It is this lack of activity working with a lower than normal blood circulation which creates a deadly combo that can lead to a scary list of physical problems.
Prolonged periods of sitting should be broken up by standing, moving, or even getting some exercise. This doesn’t have to mean running a marathon or intense weight lifting either. Anything you can do to get your heart pumping and your body moving will work just fine. That will help you avoid the following top 10 risks of sitting down too often, and for too long.
Sitting for long periods of time can cause…
Risk #1 – Premature death and a shortened lifespan
The World Health Organization (WHO) has some good and bad news for you. They recently reported that being physically inactive ranks as the 4th leading risk factor for death. That at first sounds like bad news for those of us who have sedentary jobs or lifestyles. But armed with that knowledge means that we can counteract this deadly by-product of extended sitting. It means you just have to get on your feet and become active.
And that respected health and wellness institution is not alone in its belief of the dangers of inactivity. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2014 involved 200,000 volunteers. The findings? If you sit for a combined 11 or more hours a day, you increase your risk of dying from any cause at all by an incredible 40%. That information alone should be enough motivation to keep you moving throughout your day instead of sitting your way to an early grave.
Risk #2 – Diminished mental capacity and functioning
Yes, sitting can even make you dumb. The number one culprit of most dangerous sitting symptoms is lack of circulation. When fresh blood and oxygen are not pumped to your brain at a healthy rate, your mind begins to drift. You are not nearly as sharp as when you are active. Also, chronic sit-ting can even keep mood-enhancing and brain-healthy chemicals from being produced. This can make you grumpy and moody, forgetful and men-tally slow.
Risk #3 – An increased chance of contracting breast and colon cancer
This is scary to say the least. The cure for cancer still invades modern medicine, despite decades of diligent research and billions of dollars in funding. The WHO study mentioned above shows that inactivity (and sitting definitely qualifies for that tag) was the leading cause of 25% of breast and colon cancers, 30% of heart disease and 27% of diabetes.
In other words, the very second you stand up out of your chair or seat you instantly begin to improve your odds of never contracting these painful and deadly cancers. Need more proof? The American Institute for Cancer Research in 2012 showed that more than 43,000 cases of colon cancer in the United States could be directly linked to chronic inactivity. That study also showed that over 49,000 cases of breast cancer were also the product of a sedentary lifestyle.
Risk #4 – A negative counteraction that completely offsets your exercise and workout efforts
If the first few risks of sitting down too often that we have covered do not make you jump out of your chair, this one might. Let us say you work a sedentary office job that requires you to sit down for most of the day. You understand that this inactivity can be dangerous, and even deadly. So you sign up for a gym membership, a Pilates class, or begin enjoying healthy body-weight exercises at home. Good for you! You are taking a step in the right direction.
But guess what? Sitting down for long periods of time, or for several hours a day even with breaks in between, can offset all of your hard work at physical fitness. Researchers from the University of Sydney have reported that walking, jogging, going to the gym or practicing some other type of physical fitness can be entirely counteracted by the negative health effects of prolonged sitting. Sitting is just that bad for you.
Risk #5 – Extreme muscle degeneration
We discussed how sitting too often, or for prolonged periods of time, can totally undo the positive effects of physical exercise. And that is bad enough. But not only does sitting counteract your physical fitness efforts, it actually causes muscle degeneration throughout your body. When you are moving or standing, or even just sitting up straight, your abdominal muscles are working to keep you in an upright position.
But slumping in your chair, which invariably happens if you are sitting for any period of time, means your abs are not stressed. When your back muscles are tight and your abs go unused, your core musculature begins to weaken. Also, chronic sitters very seldom extend their hip flexor muscles and glutes. This kills your stability, diminishes your ability to walk and move, and limits your range of motion. All of these conditions lead to weaker muscles.
Risk #6 – Increased chance of contracting diabetes and heart disease
The Harvard School of Public Health studied sitting research that was conducted from 1970 through 2011. Those 41 years of studies show an increased risk of heart disease of 15% when you are sitting for more than 2 hours at a time. And your risk of contracting diabetes jumps 20% over that same period of sitting.
Risk #7 – Soft and weak leg and hip bones
When you sit for long periods of time, whether continually or cumulative, even the most comfortable chair places pressure on your bottom and the backs of your thighs. It is easy to see that this constant pressure keeps your blood from flowing properly. This immediately affects your legs. If you have ever stepped outside of your vehicle after a long trip, you know that you have to stretch and bend your knees, exercising your legs just to be able to walk properly.
Now multiply that negative affect over a lifetime of sitting too much. Swollen ankles, varicose veins and even blood clots that lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are often times your rewards for extended sitting sessions. Walking and running stresses your leg and hip bones. This causes them to grow denser and stronger. When you are sitting, the bones in your lower body grow weaker instead of stronger.
Risk #8 – Obesity
This is really a no-brainer. And since you already know that obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease, poor mental functioning, unhealthy skin and several other negative health conditions, do not increase your risk of becoming obese by sitting. The inactivity caused by sitting burns minimal calories, and people often eat junk food while they sit to get an energy boost. This cranks up your risk of becoming obese, so get out of your chair and get moving.
Risk #9 – An inflexible spine and spinal damage
Have you ever heard someone complain of a “bad back”? They may have got that way because of sitting too much. When you move around, even in normal ways, the soft discs which are located between your vertebrae act like little sponges or shock absorbers. Your movement leads to healthy circulation, and these discs benefit from fresh blood and the nutrients it carries.
When you sit for too long, your discs do not receive the fresh, oxygenated blood they need on a consistent basis. And sitting can sometimes cause your discs to be mashed unevenly. Collagen begins to form and harden, and the result is disc damage, mild and even intense back pain and other dangerous spinal conditions.
Risk #10 – Higher cholesterol levels and insulin resistance
After just 5 days of moving to a sedentary lifestyle, your bad cholesterol begins to rise appreciably, as does your resistance to insulin. What does this mean? Your muscles begin to absorb fat and your blood sugar spikes. Sitting for just 5 days in a row, even if you were previously very active, be-gins to attack and weaken your heart.
Now that you know the dangers of sitting, what can you do about it?
After all, you may have a job which requires you to sit virtually all day long. And when you get home, you might enjoy checking your e-mail, chat-ting with your friends on Facebook or relaxing in your recliner or on the couch. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Just make sure that for every hour of sitting, you get up and move for at least 15 minutes. This can include performing household chores, taking a walk around your neighborhood, or enjoying a quick session of body-weight exercises, Pilates or yoga.
You can also practice proper form when you must sit. Just remember what your mom said, “Sit up straight!” Relax your shoulders naturally, and try to keep from leaning forward. Keep your arms close to your sides, with your elbows bent 90 degrees. Make sure you have lower back support, with your feet flat on the floor. Use the adjusted settings in your chair and computer monitor to help you achieve proper sitting posture.
A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and fortunately the opposite is also true. That is the basis for Newton’s First Law of Motion. While Sir Isaac was probably not concerned with the dangers of prolonged sitting when he discovered this natural law, it applies to human bodies as well. When you get up and active, you tend to stay that way. And when you dump yourself in your office chair at work or computer chair at home, it is easy to stay motionless. Just remember to break up long periods of inactivity and sitting with heart pumping, blood circulating activities, and you can avoid the 10 scary and possibly deadly risks of prolonged sitting we just discussed.
How many hours a day are you sitting down? Most of us spend more than 70 percent of our day sitting down. Sitting is slowly killing you. Sitting causes metabolic syndrome, which leads to diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. “Stand Up – How to Fight Sitting Disease at the Office & at Home” shows you 39 tips to move your body and get your life back. Simply reducing the amount of time you watch TV adds years to your life. Start today.