The Health Hazards of Sitting
Physical fitness is essential for good health. If you think about our history as humans, we always had to be in shape whether it is to hunt for food, fight off enemies, build a home, or simply survive whatever gets thrown at us.
Even though it may not seem like it on the surface, all of these activities are exercise. If you fast forward today, we are more sedentary than ever! Most people spend their time indoors and sitting, (like you’re probably doing right now). Did you know that the typical American adult is sedentary for 60% of their waking hours, and spends an average of 6 hours a day sitting? This can be even higher if you work at a desk or on a computer all day.  What’s even more astonishing is that sitting is accepted as the norm and exercise becomes a burden for many. But why is it important to decreasing sitting time and increase exercise? Sitting seems so “safe” and relaxing. Well, here are some facts to consider:
According to studies, sitting has been associated with many health problems from hypertension to osteoporosis. Here are a few studies:
-Sitting decreases the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which helps the body burn fat .
-Sitting or sedentary behavior has been shown as a risk factor in women linked to decreased bone density despite any engagement in physical activity .
Constant sitting also may adversely affect the following:
When sitting down, muscles are less active, blood flow has decreased, resulting in less calories being burned. Over a period of time blood pressure and cholesterol will rise, increasing the chances of heart diseases.
The pancreas is affected as well. The pancreas produces insulin and this hormone must carry glucose to cells for energy but when little energy is used due to inactivity, insulin production increase and the hormone accumulates and this can lead to diabetes. Clear evidence has shown that physical exercise decreases the amount of required insulin to maintain glycemic control .
The brain needs fresh blood flow in order for it to work at its optimal level. Blood carries glucose and oxygen but if the muscles do not work, blood flow is slow and therefore your brain function will decline.
Your Neck, Back and Shoulders
Your sitting posture behind a desk and computers are most of the time incorrect. Most of the time your desk isn’t high or low enough, depending on your height, and you tilt your neck towards the screen and keyboard. Also think about when using the phone while typing? What about talking on the phone while writing; we have to tilt our neck towards the side to hold the phone. By doing this you’re putting a lot of strain on the cervical vertebrae, shoulder, and neck muscles.
When you are sitting for hours on end, circulation slows down and leads to water retention because of fluid buildup in the legs. Some associated problems are varicose veins and vein thrombosis .
How Do You Improve or Prevent This?
The best way to prevent these issues is to add some more activity throughout the day. Small changes like using a smaller coffee mug to increase trips to refill or parking a little further from the door. Also remember to stand up and move your legs for a few minutes after every hour of sitting; set an alarm or reminder if need to. You can also try doing more activities while standing like: talking on the phone, eating or even considering a higher table. In the workplace, you can get a standing desk or even a treadmill desk (yes they exist)! You can even replace your regular chair with an exercise ball to limit the pressure on your knees and back and build your core. Next time you’re meeting with a friend or co-worker, grab your latte, then go outside for walk.
Why Exercise Doesn’t Compensate
According to research, sitting and exercise are two separate components affecting health. It may be hard to explain, but being active and being sedentary are two ways that can harm or improve your health and should be addressed as such. Think about this, if you go to your favorite fast food restaurant multiple times a week and eat a fattening 2000 calorie meal does exercise directly compensate for your bad eating choices? If not, why should being active compensate for being sedentary?
In the end, too much sitting is a bad thing, but occasional sitting is necessary for many aspects of life such as social gathers, etc. The problem only exists when your sitting becomes a large portion of your day for hours on end. Try taking a few breaks throughout the day to stand up, stretch, and walk, there’s no reason you should just sit your life away!