The Health Risks of Sitting for Too Long: What It Can Do to Your Body

The Health Risks of Sitting for Too Long: What It Can Do to Your Body

According to the World Health Organization, inactivity – or lack of enough physical activity – is in the top five leading risk factors of death for people around the world.

It’s true, the average person spends more hours per day sitting still than being active. And considering the human body was built for regular movement, this kind of inactivity can result in serious health issues down the line.

Studies suggest that the average U.S. adult spends as much as nine to ten hours a day sitting. This level of inactivity is so high that even a daily, hour-long workout isn’t enough to offset the effects of such a sedentary lifestyle.

What’s at Stake: We’ll Give You a Hint, It’s Not Just Your Posture!

Contrary to popular belief, sitting for long periods of time won’t just give you lower back pain, nor will the only effect be spinal-related. People who spend the majority of their days sitting are subject to a number of health risks, as described below.

  • Type 2 diabetes: Studies suggest that sitting between 8 to 12 hours a day could significantly increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, by up to 90%! The pancreas produce increased amounts of insulin when the body is “at rest” for excess amounts of time, and too much insulin can lead to diabetes.
  • Dementia: A study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine revealed that people who spent a majority of their 30s and 40s inactive were more likely to have smaller brains 20 years later. The more sedentary your lifestyle, the faster the aging process will occur, thus accelerating the rate at which the brain shrinks.
  • Heart disease: When you sit for 8 to 10 hours a day your blood will naturally flow slower and your muscles will burn less fat. The fatty acids that build as a result can clog the heart and ultimately result in heart disease.
  • Muscle degeneration: The abs, hips, and legs all suffer when you sit for prolonged amounts of time. The abs don’t get a chance to tense / flex from standing; the hips become tight and have limited range of motion from lack of extension; and the legs suffer from poor circulation. Some people will even develop varicose veins.
  • Posture problems: Blood and nutrients are absorbed as you move, which makes sitting for long periods of time all the more problematic. When the disks in your back cannot expand and contract with movement, the spine, neck, and shoulders can all suffer.
  • Increased risk of cancer: People who live sedentary lives may also be more at risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, or even endometrial cancer. The link / cause of the cancer is still being researched, but studies suggest a possible connection to the excess production of insulin, as well as the biochemical changes associated with weight gain.

According to Dr. James Levine, co-director of the Mayo Clinic and the Arizona State University Obesity Initiative, the body is hardwired to be on the move throughout the day. When you take this away, it sends a message to the body – at the molecular level – that it’s time to shut down. Time for death.

The Good News: It’s Not Too Late to Get Help!

“Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day.” – Katy Bowman, Author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement.

For people who sit 8 to 12 hours a day, a one-hour exercise regime may not be enough to counteract the negative effects of your generally sedentary lifestyle. So what else can you do?

  • Aim to get up every 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be for long! Go grab a glass of water; take a stroll around the block; stretch a little. Just do something to get your blood flowing and your body moving.
  • Use an exercise ball instead of a chair. This will help engage your core muscles while improving your flexibility and your balance. A little bouncing wouldn’t hurt either!
  • Sit smartly. Elongate your spine while sitting by sticking it out behind you. This can help with your breathing and it will stimulate circulation.
  • Use a standing workstation. Alternating between standing and sitting throughout the day will help keep your heart working and your blood flowing.

If you really want to up the ante, consider a physical therapy regimen. At ProFysio Physical Therapy, our doctors and physical therapists are specially trained to provide patients with new ways to better their physical health. We will work with you one-on-one to develop a daily plan that best supports your physical, mental, and emotional health – and, most importantly, one that gets you up and moving!

We have two office locations in Monmouth County for your convenience, and we accept most insurance plans. Don’t wait to call us at (732) 333-6360 today!

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