It is estimated that the average American spends a total of 13 hours seated every day when one considers time sitting at work as well as at home in front of the computer, television or game system. Not only are we letting ‘life pass us by’, but there are serious health risks associated with this type of sedentary lifestyle. Sitting too long may actually lead to an early death.
That may seem like an extreme statement, but researchers and scientists are warning that the risk couldn’t be truer. The increased amount of time we are spending inactive has the medical community worried.
“Research is showing links between sedentary lifestyles and diabetes, several types of cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease,” stated Jane Payfer, Vice President of Marketing at Ergotron, Inc., a company dedicated to providing ergonomic products. “There is a significant opportunity for people to change their behavior in the workplace and for corporations to change their cultures. Standing increases energy, burns extra calories, tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, reduces blood sugar levels and ramps up metabolism. Frequently overlooked, standing more is the simplest, easiest change someone can make.”
Still unclear about the risks? Here are 12 science-backed reasons why sitting too long is harmful to your body:
#1 – Shorten Lifespan
Let’s start off with the most urgent reason why you may want to get up and moving more often. A new study revealed the frightening fact that sitting too long may actually be shortening your lifespan. Impacting the function of many of the body’s vital organs, it increases the risk of major disease and early death. So, getting up and moving may actually be a matter of saving your life!
#2 – Weight Gain
While too much sitting doesn’t directly cause you to gain weight, it does rob you of the necessary physical activity to avoid it. The longer that you sit either at the office or in front of your tv or computer at home, the less physical activity you are fitting into your day. As a result, you aren’t burning the calories that you are consuming, allowing your body to store the excess as fat deposits instead. Even more concerning, sitting for extremely long periods of time may even counteract the effects of working out, meaning that a 1-hour workout at lunch may not be enough. Regular short moments of activity throughout the day are recommended.
#3 – Higher Chance of Developing Osteoporosis
Throughout our adult lives, the International Osteoporosis Foundation explains, we go through a process known as ‘remodelling’ in which the old bone is removed, and new bone is formed. In order for this new bone to be strong and capable of standing up to the test of time, we need to engage in ‘weight-bearing activity’ regularly. This is the reason why studies reveal a connection between a sedentary lifestyle and the rate of hip fractures in adults.
#4 – Increased Dementia Risk
When you consider the risks of sitting too long, your mind likely goes to all the physical ramifications. However, we often forget that the brain is also a muscle, however, when it doesn’t function adequately it can impact our cognitive function. One study found that sitting too long lead to a decrease in the size of the medial temporal lobe, leading to dementia. They found that participants who sit for 15 hours a day had a 10% thinner medial temporal lobe than those who sat for 10 hours.
#5 – Deep Vein Thrombosis
Often associated with the act of sitting too long on a plane, many people don’t realize that sitting too long at home or at the office can also put you at an increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots can form in the deep veins of the legs, and while many will dissolve on their own, if one were to break off and travel to a major organ like the lungs it can cause a blockage and potentially death.
#6 – Increased Cancer Risk
There are many changes that we have made to our lifestyle in order to decrease cancer risks, such as quitting smoking and adopting a healthier diet. However, scientists reveal that simply sitting too long may be putting you in harm’s way. One study revealed that those who spend more hours of the day seated have a 66% higher risk of developing certain cancers than those who are more active. With such a significant increase, it goes without saying that simply getting up and moving may have a profound impact on your health.
#7 – It Damages Your Heart
Whether you spend your day seated at a desk, or you’re stuck in a vehicle, sitting behind the wheel, scientists warn that sitting for too long each day has been associated with heart disease. The guideline laid out by a recent report is that one should not sit for more than half of their waking houses, meaning it’s going to take more than just a lunchtime workout to counteract the effect. Spending too many hours each day has been found to increase your chances of cardiovascular disease.
#8 – Higher Anxiety Risk
Another area of concern when considering the amount of time one is seated throughout the day is the impact that it has on your mental health. Researchers have found a connection between remaining seated too long throughout the day and an increase in anxiety. While the exact cause is unknown, there are a number of theories including the decreased social time, poor sleep habits, and the lack of ‘happy’ hormones created within the brain due to physical activity, counteracting negative thought patterns.
#9 – Varicose Veins
While not a serious condition in and of itself, varicose veins are often uncomfortable, unsightly and can lead to more significant problems down the road. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid them when possible. When one is sitting for too long, this allows the blood to collect and pool in the veins of the leg. This increased pressure can, in turn, weaken the walls of the veins leading to this problem. Unlike DVT (point 5) this generally happens in the veins close to the surface of the skin and, in and of itself, does not carry the same health concerns.
#10 – Increased Diabetes Risk
Many health experts say that the increased rate of diabetes in the country is directly associated with the foods that we eat, processed and full of sugar, but, there may be another cause to consider. Research shows that sitting too long hinders the body’s ability to break down sugars, which, over time, can contribute to the development of diabetes. Even just a small amount of physical activity, such as standing up or taking a short walk around the office, can counteract these effects.
#11 – Weakened Leg and Abdominal Muscles
When you consider the facts, this is a risk that is undeniable. If you are sitting too long every day, especially if you are sitting with poor posture and not engaging your core, you are avoiding using the muscles in your legs and abdominal area. Without use, these muscles weaken. While this may seem like a minor situation at first, over time a weakening of these muscles may actually hinder your ability to move through the world and function.
#12 – Back and Neck Pain
If you work at a desk and are seated for a good portion of the day, this is likely one side effect you are already aware of. While this pain is believed to be completely preventable with the right attention to stretching during the day and an ergonomic workspace, most Americans are unaware and therefore unprepared to counteract this risk. Not only can you avoid this pain by simply standing up for a moment every 30 minutes, but you should also pay attention to the chair that you are sitting in and the organization of your desk.