Stop Sitting! 9 Reasons Why Too Much Sitting Is Bad for Your Health
In the last several decades, Americans have become a largely sedentary people. We sit in the car on the way too and from work, sit for 8 or more hours a day at our desks, sit at home until it’s time for bed…
Unfortunately, all this sitting has led to wide development of health problems, many of which can be directly traced back to a culture where everyone is sitting down for the majority of the day.
Here are 9 reasons why too much sitting is bad for your health, and what to do about it:
Hurts Your Heart
Sitting for too long can cause strain and weakening of the heart.
Scientific studies that compared a group of public transit drivers, who sit for most of the day, against a group of conductors or guards found that the transit drivers were about twice as likely to develop heart disease. Although the diets and lifestyles of the two groups were similar, those who sat for most of their day were more susceptible to heart problems than those who stood.
Increase Dementia Risk
Movement increases blood flow around your body, including to your brain. If you’re sitting too much, it can cause the flow of blood to your brain to decrease, which can increase your risk of dementia.
Additionally, too much sitting increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. All of these conditions can lead to an increased risk of developing dementia.
Weight-bearing exercise, including even light standing and walking, puts necessary good stress on your bones. Moving around signals your body to replace old bone tissue with new, strengthening your skeleton.
Too little movement means your bone tissue is replaced less frequently, leading to fragile bones and a greater risk of osteoporosis, especially as you age.
Back & Neck Pain
Sitting for hours, especially if you have poor posture, puts stress on the discs in your spine, your shoulders, and your neck.
This stress can lead to minor back and neck pain or, if left too long, serious problems such as herniated discs.
Increased Risk of Depression & Anxiety
The more you move, the happier you are, according to researchers.
Sitting too much during the day, even if you workout regularly, impacts your feelings of well-being and happiness, and can lead to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, if you get up and move a little bit every so often, you are more likely to be happier.
Your overall posture is intimately linked to the strength of your core muscles. When you stand and move around, even gently, you are strengthening these muscles.
Sitting, on the other hand, forces you to relax these muscles and keeps them weak. And the weaker your core muscles, the worse your posture is, the more likely you are to suffer from back and neck pain, and even the worse off your balance is.
Increased Risk of Cancer
Even accounting for exercise, too much sitting increases your risk for colon and endometrial cancer.
One review found that, for every additional two hours per day spent sitting, the risk of colon cancer increased 8 percent and the risk of endometrial cancer jumped 10 percent. This is possibly due to an increase of inflammation, weight gain, and other changes that take place from too much time sitting down.
Just as your daily gym habit helps keep your weight in check, so does all the time you spend moving around throughout the day.
If you’re sitting for hours at a time, you’re burning fewer calories and causing your weight to creep up, especially if you’re not being careful with your diet. And, even if you do workout regularly, it may not be enough to overcome all the time you spend sitting down during the day.
Increased Risk of Blood Clots
When you’re sedentary, the flow of blood to your legs decreases.
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that women who sat for more than 40 hours per week – or the equivalent of simply sitting during all your working hours – had more than double the risk of a blood clot moving to their lungs when compared to those who sat for fewer than 10 hours per week.
How You Can Avoid Too Much Sitting
While it can feel nearly impossible to decrease the amount of time you spend sitting, especially at work, there are a few small changes you can make that will add up over time:
- Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. Get up and walk around and stretch a little. If you need to, set a timer to remind yourself to stand. Use this as an opportunity to refill your water bottle to increase your water intake!
- Stand while talking on the phone or watching TV.
- Try out a standing desk or a platform that adjusts to allow you to stand when you need to. If this isn’t feasible, improvise with a high table or counter, even for small portions of your day.
- Institute walking meetings, if you can. If your colleague needs to talk about that project, or you just want to catch up on the daily gossip, do so while walking around instead of seated at your desks or in a conference room.
- If possible, position your work surface above a treadmill so you can be in motion throughout the day.