Our present-day society is evident that it is designed for sitting. Be it socializing, working, driving, watching television, studying, or travelling, we spend our time in a seated position more than ever before. In fact, an average person spends over six to seven hours sitting each and every day. Meanwhile, a typical office worker spends up to about 15 hours every day sitting.
While sitting may be a common posture, it does not mean that it is harmless. Sitting for an excessive amount of time can harm your health, making this pleasant activity potentially deadly. Especially with the pandemic where the majority of the population are subjected to stay indoors, the amount of time spent sitting and other sedentary behaviours have reached a new high and have become the new norm for many. Therefore, it is more important than ever to find ways to reduce this unhealthy behaviour and lower the chances of harming our health.
Fortunately, most of the negative effects of excessive sitting can be addressed with some simple changes in day to day life. This article aims to offer an insight into the effects of this unhealthy behaviour and ways to counteract its effects.
Negative Effects of Sitting for Long Hours
It is scientifically proven that extensive sitting can be harmful to health. Human beings are built to be active and to stand upright. And when we devoid ourselves from that with unhealthy sedentary behaviours, we make ourselves susceptible to numerous health risks that can be deadly at its worst. Here are some of the effects of prolonged sitting:
1. Weak Legs and Gluteal Muscles
Our large leg and gluteal muscles play an important part in helping us accomplish our daily activities. They aid us in walking and in supporting and stabilizing our body. Prolonged sitting reduces the use of these powerful muscles which wastes and weakens the leg and gluteal muscles gradually, a condition known as muscle atrophy. Weakened leg and gluteal muscles can increase the risk of injury from falls, and from strains when exercising, which can later lead to serious long-term muscle-related health issue.
2. Weight Gain
Being physically active increases the secretion of essential molecules like lipoprotein lipase, which is essential for the processing and the digestion of the sugars and fats we eat. Sitting for long hours reduces the release of these essential molecules, giving rise to indigestion and fat accumulation in the body, both of which are key to weight gain. Also, prolonged sitting can lead to metabolic syndrome which can be harmful to health. Studies have shown that people who spend an excessive amount of time sitting are more likely to gain belly fat, and more likely to be overweight or obese.
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3. Diabetes Risk
It is well known that you burn fewer calories when your body is inactive. Therefore, the risk of developing diabetes is very much higher in people with sedentary behaviours such as prolonged sitting. Studies have suggested that people with excessive sitting period tend to have a higher resistance to insulin, a precursor to diabetes.
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4. Hips and Back Pain
Just as with legs and gluteal muscles, prolonged sitting can take a huge toll on your hip and back muscles as well. Sitting causes your hip flexor to shorten, which can gradually lead to serious hip issues and back problem. It is even worse if you are constantly seated in a slouching position. Additionally, poor seating posture can cause tightening on the discs in your spine and can lead to premature damage, which results in chronic pain.
5. Heart Disease Risk
Scientific studies have concluded that continuously sitting for an excessive amount of time increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. With various health symptoms such as high blood cholesterol, high blood sugar, obesity, etc. cropping up as a result of unhealthy sedentary behaviour, people are more susceptible to the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke and other heart diseases.
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6. Increase Anxiety and Depression
Although not much scientific evidence is there to prove the exact link between mental health and prolonged sitting, it is still evident that the risk of both anxiety and depression is higher in people that sit more. This could be due to the lack of health benefits from physical activity and fitness with prolonged sitting.
Ways to Prevent from the Dangers of Sitting
If you feel you are guilty of sitting for too long a period, or your job simply requires you to do so, it is never too late to turn it around and prevent yourself from the dangers of sitting. Here are some solutions you can incorporate and focus on to be more physically active:
1. Be Active At Home
- Walk around the house while talking on the phone
- Take a break from sitting while watching television
- Try Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Home-Workouts to be more active
- Take around the block in the morning or afternoon
2. Be Active at Work
- Make sure to take a break from sitting every 30 minutes, walk around the office
- Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch
- Take the stairs instead of the lift/escalator
- Walk over and talk to your colleagues instead of emailing them.
- Move your rubbish bin away from your desk so you have to get up to throw anything away.
- Refuse to take a vehicle to get to work if it is at a walking distance
- Make sure to take a short walk during lunch hour
Although relaxing, too much sitting can be detrimental to your health. It is important to find ways to minimize the amount of time you spend sitting to reduce the risk of getting short to long-term health issues. Any type of movement can be beneficial, especially if you are working a desk job. Try incorporating these tips into your daily life to stay strong and live a more healthy life.
Also, the efficacy of these lifestyle changes may vary from person to person. And if chronic pain persists even after adopting these changes, consider consulting an Orthopaedic specialist to help examine and diagnose the problems.