When you think about our daily routine, once we get up in the morning, we: sit down to have breakfast, sit down in the car on the way to work, sit down at work all day, drive home, eat dinner sitting down, and then sit on the couch to watch tv or surf the internet. That’s a lot of sitting down.
Yes, you read that right. Even if you’re one of those people who without fail gets in a full, hour long workout everyday, that burst of exercise isn’t enough to counteract the nine to 10 hours an average adult spends sitting down each day. Here’s what’s happening to your body when you spend such significant time in a chair.
1. Organ damage: Forget about backaches, what you should really be worried about is the impact of sitting on your internal organs. When you sit for a long period of time your muscles burn less fat and your blood begins to flow slowly, allowing fatty acids to easily clog your heart. Sitting has been linked to high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, your pancreas may over produce insulin, which can lead to diabetes, and studies have linked sitting to a greater risk for developing colon, breast, and endometrial cancers.
2. Muscle degeneration: You know those rock-hard abs you’ve been working towards? Keep in mind that sitting does nothing to help that six-pack peek through. When you’re standing your abdominal muscles are tensed and tightened, but when you sit, those muscles go unused, ultimately leading to a weak mid-section. Sitting can also impact the mobility of your hips and the strength of your glutes. Sitting in a chair all day will make your hips tight with a more limited degree of motion because they are rarely extended. Your glutes can weaken with lack of use affecting your stability and power when walking and jumping.
3. The Longer You Sit, the Fatter You Get: When it comes to weight management, the fewer calories you burn, the more likely you are to gain weight. This is why sedentary behavior is so closely linked to obesity. In fact, research shows that obese individuals sit for an average of 2 hours longer each day than lean people do.
4. Loss of brainpower: When you sit at your desk you may be solving all sorts of problems, organizing tasks, and using plenty of critical thinking skills, but even in the most stimulating of jobs your brain can become foggy from sitting for long periods of time. Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen to the brain, which triggers the release of brain and mood enhancing chemicals. Your brain function will actually slow when you’re sedentary for long periods of time.
5. Back and neck pain: One of the most common and very physical symptoms of living much of your life in a seated position is the presence of back and neck pain. Cradling a phone to your ear and jutting your neck and head forward while working at a computer leads to strains in your cervical vertebrae which causes neck strain, sore shoulders, and back pain. The very act of sitting puts added pressure on your spine and compresses the disks that make up your back.
Research suggests that no matter what your total sitting time is, regular interruptions from sitting (even just by standing up) may help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Now that you better understand the health risks caused by sitting too long, you can actually help your body immensely by doing little things each day to break up your routine. If your job requires you sitting behind a desk for 40 hours a week, here are some ways you can reduce your chances of developing any of the disorders we talked about. Get up from the desk each hour to grab a drink of water, use the restroom, and empty your trash. Look for any reason to get up each hour and get moving.