Whether it’s long workday in the office, an evening sitting in front of the TV or hours playing a computer game — it’s easy to find yourself sitting down for most of the day. While sitting down for copious hours at a time may not seem like a big deal, it’s actually a dangerous problem. Perhaps after reading this article you’ll try to get out of your chair more and strive to be a little more active every day.
After reading the book, Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It written by Dr. James Levine, Meow GAG is anxious to share the author’s thoughts on how a sedentary lifestyle can be equated to dangerous addictions like alcoholism and the like.
1. Spinal Strain
Scientists estimate that every Briton spends up to 14 hours sitting down every day — and unfortunately, the statistics from other countries look similar. Galen Krantz, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks that sitting down is an absolutely unnatural position and that humans are not innately meant to do so.
The human spine has an S-shaped form for a reason: it can withstand strains. However, in a sitting position, an S-shape turns into a C-shape. When a person slouches, stomach muscles become weaker and can hardly hold a proper body form without regular training.
When you’re sitting down, the strain is transferred to the pelvis and vertebral spine, causing the pressure on intervertebral discs to increase. Constant straining causes the entrapment of the cervical vertebrae and can eventually lead to the decrease of blood flow to the brain. As a result, a person can experience headaches and blurred vision. The spine is a framework for all inner organs, which is why it’s crucial to keep it straight without putting constant pressure on it.
2. The Cardiovascular System
One of the most serious consequences of a sedentary lifestyle is the risk of cardiovascular diseases like coronary heart disease or chronic hypertension. A life of continuous sitting weakens the muscles, deteriorates blood circulation and lowers the tone of blood vessels. A lack of physical activity is one of the main reasons for early atherosclerosis (a build-up of cholesterol plaques in the blood vessels of the heart). Also, an imbalance between the oxygen supply and consumption can occur, where the heart needs more oxygen than the blood is bringing.
An extensive study of more than 17,000 people over 13 years showed that people with sedentary lifestyles have a 54% greater risk of dying from a heart attack than those who are more active.
3. Varicose Veins
People who spend most of their day sitting at a desk suffer from a bad blood circulation in the lower limbs which can cause the development of varicose veins. While both genders can develop them, women are more likely to suffer from them. In addition to varicose veins being hereditary, they can also appear after sitting over long periods of time with your legs crossed. The act of the veins getting squeezed leads to the congestion of blood in different areas.
Poor blood circulation is also dangerous because it can lead to the development of blood clots. A clot can easily block up a vital blood vessel in the heart, lungs, or brain.
Carrying excess weight is one of the biggest consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. When sitting for prolonged periods of time, the metabolism slows down and your body burns fewer calories, storing the excess as fat.
As soon as a person sits down, the body lowers the fat burning process by 90%, their insulin level falls, and blood pressure increases. Over the past 50 years, a majority of jobs have changed with the times and now require more sitting behind a desk — which means no time to burn calories. At a standing job, your body burns up to 35% more calories than at a seated desk job.
Based on the law of energy balance, an active lifestyle is a key factor to maintaining a healthy body weight.
5. Muscles and Bones
Constant slouching combined with lack of physical activity can make your body’s muscles weak and flabby. Most affected are your abdominal and gluteal muscles. But muscles aren’t the only thing that suffer during a sedentary lifestyle. Another possible consequence of sitting behind a desk over time is osteoporosis. While bones don’t actually have much difficulty holding the body in a seated position, they can lose strength over time, becoming more porous and fragile.
6. Digestive System
The pancreas releases the amount of insulin necessary to transform carbohydrates into glucose. However, the cells in the passive muscles need a much lower amount of insulin, while the pancreas releases it at its regular speed.
In 2011, studies showed that just one day of sitting down leads to a reduced consumption of insulin by the cells. As a result, a predisposition to diabetes and other diseases is likely to develop. A sedentary lifestyle can also cause other unpleasant diseases like chronic constipation or in extreme cases, hemorrhoids.
The Lancet journal released the mortality rates from hypodynamy, revealing 5.3 million deaths every year, with 5 million of them being caused by cigarette smoking-related issues.
Telomeres are situated on the ends of chromosomes, protecting them from any damage. Telomeres become increasingly shorter during the aging process. An inactive lifestyle has been proven to cause telomeres to become shorter much faster, accelerating the aging process significantly. While sitting may feel comfortable, every hour of doing so can cost you two hours off your life.
8. Mental Distress and Anxiety
A sedentary lifestyle can have a very negative influence on mental health. The absence of physical activity leads to the development of depression and anxiety. Our chairs become an island of isolation and loneliness. According to research, constant sitting causes the lack of endorphins that physical activity and training usually boost in your body.
Engaging in regular exercise can greatly improve your mood and relax the body. It also can improve self-esteem and self-confidence. In addition, physical activity influences the production of serotonin, helping to curb an imbalance that could lead to depression, memory problems and lack of appetite.
Lack of movement can influence the quality of your sleep. Your body interprets constant sitting as rest, even if your mental activity is at its peak. Therefore, if you’ve been “resting” for the whole day, your body decides that you no longer have a need for sleep and relaxation time. Regular exercise helps you to get rid of insomnia and improves the quality of your sleep.
10. Performance Problems
Men with inactive lifestyles are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction, prostate problems, and hormonal imbalance.
When a man spends many hours in a row sitting down, the blood circulation in the small pelvis slows down and can eventually lead to inflammation and the development of more serious diseases.
With lack of movement, fat deposits become larger, oftentimes resulting in a hormonal imbalance. The female hormone, estrogen, is produced in fat tissues — which explains why men can develop pot bellies that are nearly impossible to get rid of.
What Can You Do?
Some companies strive to motivate their workers to be more active by placing water coolers and dustbins far from the desks, installing foosball tables or table tennis and organizing meetings and training sessions where the employees have to move.
Also, scientists and doctors give the following recommendations:
- Take long walks more often.
- Don’t stay seated when you using public transport.
- Walk to your colleague’s desk instead of calling them on the phone.
- Have standing meetings more often.
- Take a walk during your lunch break or eat outside.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Take short breaks from work to do some simple stretching.
Did you want to get up out of your chair after reading this article? Share your thoughts about this topic with us in the comments.
Based on the materials from Bright Side