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Why Sitting Is Harming Your Health

Lindsey is a board certified Health and Wellness Coach, which ensures the highest standard of care, and a client lead approach to health and wellness goals. Lindsey loves to help others achieve their best self by partnering with clients to determine achievable health goals and specific action steps to get there.

 
Executive Contributor Lindsey Champney

Your body is built for movement, and spending too much time sitting can cause a wide range of negative health effects. Sitting has become the new normal in the modern world. After a long day seated at the office or school, most people sit again in their cars or mass transit. This lack of movement is causing long-term issues with our physical and mental health.

 

Woman having back pain while using laptop

This article explains the health issues associated with extended sitting and provides tips to incorporate movement throughout the day.

 

Back pain

A recent study found that prolonged sitting increased the risk of developing lower back pain by 42%. The seated position puts stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine, and it's even worse if you slouch. Poor posture may also cause compression in the discs in your spine, leading to premature degeneration, which can be very painful. Additionally, sitting causes hip flexor muscles to shorten, which can lead to problems with the hip joint.

 

When sitting at a desk, consider using a lumbar roll (or a rolled-up towel) placed at the small of your back, between your back and the chair to improve alignment. It is also important to set your computer to eye level to reduce looking up or down.

 

Sitting for long periods causes chronic diseases

Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and break down body fat. These conditions are all linked to metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. In a recent study published it was found that people who predominantly sit at work have a 16% higher risk of mortality from all causes and a 34% higher risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. Excessive sitting also increases your risk of certain cancers. A study in 2020 found that extended sitting time at work was associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in men and lung cancer in women.

 

Cutting back on sitting time will reduce your risk of chronic disease, but you still need regular exercise to make a bigger impact on your overall health. Aim for about 60-75 minutes of moderate physical activity daily to combat the negative effects of sitting.

 

Weight gain and obesity

Sitting contributes to a sedentary lifestyle which increases your likelihood of being overweight. One study found that men who sit for more than four hours a day have a 1.7 times higher risk of central obesity than men who sit for less than four hours a day. The same study found that women who sit for more than four hours a day have a 1.4 times higher risk of being overweight or obese.

 

Moving your muscles helps your body digest the food you eat. If you spend a lot of time sitting, digestion is not as efficient, so you may store excess fat. Exercising consistently will keep the obesity risk lower. Find a time that works best for your schedule, and keep a workout routine. Additionally, choose a workplace that prioritizes employee health and fitness.


Vascular issues and blood clotting

When sitting for long periods, your muscles are inactive and the veins have to do all the work moving the blood around. This results in reduced blood flow and the pooling effect that can lead to the development of varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A DVT is a blood clot that forms in the veins of your leg. Sustained inactivity over the years can cause feet to get swollen and achy and aggravate existing varicose veins.

 

To keep the blood flowing and prevent varicose veins, it helps to elevate the legs when seated and keep the legs uncrossed. It is important to wear proper shoes that support the foot and ankle, and incorporate small movements throughout the day to prevent the blood from pooling. Additionally, it helps to stay hydrated by drinking water and reducing dehydrating drinks like coffee and alcohol.

 

Depression

Sitting all day has as much of an impact on your mental health as it does your physical health. Prolonged sitting has been affiliated with the development of psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety. The teenage population is particularly at risk since they tend to be less active than younger children.

 

Sitting can also be isolating, particularly when working remotely. This isolation is directly linked to depression and feelings of loneliness. A recent study further uncovered the negative mental impact prolonged sitting can have on individuals, particularly during the COVID-19 lockdown. The pandemic directly led to a lot more working from home, TV watching, and video game playing.

 

The good news is that adding movement and exercise throughout the day can significantly decrease the risk of depression and anxiety. When you begin to exercise or move, neurotransmitters like endorphins and dopamine (aka “happy hormone”), are released. Physical activity can strengthen your mental state and improve your quality of life...

 

Conclusion

It can be challenging to avoid sitting with office-related jobs, school, commuting, TV, and tablets, however, movement and exercise throughout the day can drastically improve the negative health implications. Below are ways to add simple movements throughout the day to keep the body physically and mentally healthy:

 

  • Invest in an under-desk treadmill or bike.

  • Use an adjustable stand-up desk or a high counter.

  • Set a reminder on your phone or watch to stand up and move every hour.

  • Do squats or lunges in and out of your desk chair periodically throughout the day.

  • Keep an eye on daily steps with a fitness tracker. Aim for 10,000 steps per day.

  • When watching TV, use the commercial time to get up and walk around.


 

Lindsey Champney, Health and Wellness Coach

Lindsey is a board certified Health and Wellness Coach, which ensures the highest standard of care, and a client lead approach to health and wellness goals. Lindsey loves to help others achieve their best self by partnering with clients to determine achievable health goals and specific action steps to get there. She is passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle through proper nutrition, optimal sleep, exercise, stress management, and emotional well-being.

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