Many people spend up to 50% of their time awake in a seated position, and this is really bad news because studies say that sitting for longer than 3 hours a day can shave life expectancy by as many as 2 years. Even if sedentary lifestyle doesn’t cut your lifespan, it can still punch a few dents in your medical record and increase risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes type 2, low bone density, and heart disease. The sheer amount of damage all that sitting is doing to our body is enough to send shivers down the spine – and here’s a short list of health problems linked to sedentary lifestyle, and a few easy ways to fight them.
Sitting stiff is full of aches
They don’t say that sitting is the new smoking without a reason: strained back muscles are only the tip of the sedentary iceberg hazards. Here’s what sitting for hours does to your body.
Spine, back, and neck strain
Sitting puts more pressure on your spine, neck, and back than standing or walking, especially if you have a habit of slouching at your desk. According to certain studies, 40% of people suffering from chronic back pain spend most of their day sitting. Sitting causes spinal disks to lose their natural flexibility, which ups the risk of herniated disks and long-term spine damage.
Reduced muscle strength
Your body is designed for movement, and without regular stretching, walking, and engaging in physical activity, your leg, glute, and abdominal muscles will lose strength and elasticity and start to deteriorate. Sitting for hours on end also affects exchange of nutrients in muscle cells, and malnourished muscle tissue can hamper your mobility even further.
Lower bone density
Staying seated for hours is a shortcut to reduced bone mineral density and joint pains, which can contribute to early onset of age-related bone loss, arthritis, osteoporosis, and osteoporotic fractures. The risk goes up even more if sedentary lifestyle is coupled with improper diet, high intake of sugar, salt, and refined vegetable oils, and failure to follow a well-timed meal agenda.
Higher risk of heart disease
Sitting slows down blood flow, and sluggish circulation is a byword for metabolic rate drops and easier cholesterol buildup in blood vessels. A 2015 research showed that blood flow slowdown caused by excess sitting can result in elevated blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Increased risk of cancer
Sitting in a slouched position for hours compresses stomach and abdomen contents, which can cause sluggish digestion, camps, bloating, heartburn, constipation, and dysbiosis. But gut glitches don’t stop there: as the pace of transformative processes in the body drops, insulin production goes up, impacting cell growth and upping the risk of cancer development by over 30%.
Avoid sitting all-day long
The fact that all-day sitting is a part of your job description doesn’t mean you need to renounce all hope of good health over a solid paycheck. There are many ways for you to keep your bones, muscles, and blood vessels strong even with 8+ hours of sitting a day in the mix.
Activate your seating
Dynamic sitting is an easy fix for most health concerns caused by sedentary lifestyle as it prompts the body to move even when seated. To ‘activate’ your sitting sessions, swap your sofa for a rocking chair and replace the office conference chair by its ergonomic counterpart.
Take up yoga or sports
After work hours are over, don’t just plop down in front of the TV and call it a day. Increasing active time by taking up yoga or sports can reduce risk of chronic diseases, prevent muscle and joint pains, and boost the metabolic rate, allowing the body to burn more calories even when inactive.
Built to sit and be fit
If you’re locked to the PC at the office, make sure that your chair and workstation are custom-arranged to minimize the negative effects of sitting. You can replace the chair by a stability ball to keep your muscles engaged, your core active, and your posture in place.
Rethink the desktop
Another simple trick to reduce risk of sitting-related health problems, the desktop should be organized in view of promoting a healthy posture. Height-adjustable sit-to-stand workstations are also a good idea as they encourage movement essential to seamless long-term health.
Loosen it up or lose it
If you can’t cut your seated sessions any shorter, you can at least loosen up after all-day sitting’s done. Neck manipulation, massage, and professional chiropractic services boost blood flow to the brain, alleviate chronic back and neck pain, and enhance natural spinal alignment and healthy posture.