Is Prolonged Sitting Unhealthy?
Many of you have probably heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” But what makes sitting comparable to a habit known to cause many diseases, chronic health conditions, and death? The body needs rest, plus sitting is relaxing! Some people can’t relax without sitting. However, many Americans inadvertently partake in excessive sitting every day. Ironically, I am sitting as I write this article, and you are more than likely sitting as you read!
What are The Risks of Sitting too Much?
The majority of jobs around the world require long hours of sitting (as well as very little movement) throughout the day. Modern daily routines typically involve minimal movement and do not meet the requirements that are necessary for a healthy life. Average days usually consist of sleeping, eating breakfast, commuting to work, working at a desk, commuting back home, relaxing after work, then preparing dinner, only to go back to sleep and repeat the same day all over again indefinitely. With this in mind, you can imagine the extreme lack of movement that takes place in an average American’s life.
Not many people realize the toll that too much sitting can have on your body— even if you do regularly partake in physical activity or maintain a healthy lifestyle! Serious health risks can result from extended sitting, such as:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Mental Illness/Depression/Anxiety
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)/Blood clots
- Reduction in memory or focus
Physical Effects of Prolonged Sitting
Over 25% of Americans sit for more than 8 hours each day with 44% of them getting little to no daily exercise. Spending an extended amount of time lounging with very little movement can cause metabolism levels to slow down drastically. Studies show that sitting for over 30 minutes causes your metabolism levels to drop by about 90%, preventing your body from burning excess fat at a normal and healthy rate. Excessive sitting may lead to increased obesity, making it more important to maintain an active lifestyle. Additionally, sitting for more than 7 hours per day can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression. Many people may experience an increase in prolonged sitting once diagnosed with anxiety and depression, thereby, worsening their symptoms.
Furthermore, sitting forces the body’s muscles into a position that they are not designed to maintain. The body slouches as we relax our muscles, creating poor posture habits, inhibiting breath, weakening the core, and restricting normal blood flow. Sitting causes the hamstrings to stretch, quadriceps to loosen, and the hips to develop an abnormal posture, resulting in poor alignment and balance. Poor hip alignment may cause the body to struggle against gravity’s natural forces, resulting in the legs collapsing inward and forcing pressure on the kneecaps, lower back, and feet, all while trying to maintain balance and good posture. Once you transition from prolonged sitting to a standing position, you may find that your body is stiffer as the muscles and joints re-align, likely irritating and straining the muscles. By taking frequent breaks, you can move those relaxed muscles, increase blood flow, clear your mind, and boost energy levels.
Take a Break!
Your body deserves a break, but not all breaks should be sedentary. Sitting is not bad for the body if you sit for small amounts of time versus for long hours without giving your body the movement that it craves. It is recommended that you get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day to counteract the effects of sitting for many hours. Now, this is not suggesting that you must get a gym membership or participate in intense workouts every day. Exercising is essential for the body but doing something small such as a brisk walk after work, taking frequent breaks away from your desk, or going for a light jog may balance out the accumulated time spent sitting all day.
Taking breaks and relaxing are important for a healthy body and mind. This article encourages you to take a little time off from your long break and get your body moving to eliminate health risks. If watching TV, get up to stretch during every commercial. If working at a desk, take frequent breaks, or walk over to see a coworker instead of emailing them. Take the longer route in the grocery store to get those extra steps in. Any amount of movement may just help prevent unwelcome health developments and lead to living stronger and healthier lives.
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