What Are The Effects of Sitting Down All Day?
Sitting Down All Day Long
One would think that an occupation that requires its workers to sit in a cubicle all day long would be a pretty mundane job. But now, scientists know that cubicle dwellers are have a much riskier occupation than previously thought. The office space can be downright dangerous.
Given today’s advanced technology, the workforce can do almost everything from their desks. Humans have found more ways to stay put hunching over their desks and starring at their computer screens for hours at a time without moving a muscle. And that’s the problem. Even during a lunch break, many people eat their food at their desks instead of making a “long” trek to the break room. For some, the only exercise they get at the office is a short walk to the coffee maker and/or the bathroom. Then, it’s time to get in the car and go home where one will often recline on the sofa to rest and relax after a stressful day at work. Rinse and repeat, day after day.
While you won’t see many of them wearing hard hats at their desks, office workers are risking their lives every day doing what SitFlow.com coins, “excessive sitting.” Though it sounds benign, sitting for long periods at a time can cause all kinds of havoc on one’s mind, body and soul. Here’s a few examples of just how bad things can get (SitFlow.com).
Excessive Sitting Effects the Mind
It has become clear that people who surf couches in their living rooms instead of the waves at sea miss out on the mental health benefits of exercise. If one sits for long periods of time, blood flow and oxygen to the brain is reduced. When this happens, the brain’s functions slow down. One might get a sense that their ability to plan out their day or get themselves organized becomes a huge chore. When the brain doesn’t get the glucose energy that it needs, cells become damaged.
But it’s not only our cognitive skills that are at risk here. Doctors suspect, and probably rightly so, that people who sit a lot may also be people who are loners or they may be people who spend a lot of time virtually interacting with people through a screen instead of communicating or doing things with others in person. These people can spend so much time alone that they tend to withdraw from people when attending social situations. In turn, this can cause havoc to one’s brain causing one to suffer from anxiety.
As one thing leads to another, anxiety-ridden people also tend to eat when stressed and/or might have trouble falling asleep or even staying asleep. It’s is also fair to assume that some of these same people see very little sun exposure. If this is the case, it leads to vitamin D deficiency which can cause an even stronger sense of loneliness.
In addition, the restricted blood flow that one experiences by sitting in place for long periods of time will also affect the brain. The production of new neurons become reduced while inflammation increases. According to one study that was published in PLOS One, the decreased activity leads to loss of thickness in the temporal lobe. This is important because this is the part of the brain that controls one’s memory and other functions. The study concluded that 13% of Alzheimer’s cases have been credited to patients who had a sedentary lifestyle (BestLifeOnline).
Perhaps the scariest thing is a recent finding of scientists who found that brain scans of people struggling with dementia look very similar to brain scans of people who spend a large portion of their days sitting.
Excessive Sitting Effects the Body
The effects of sitting too long in one place can have a toll on the body in many different ways. Here’s how excessive sitting effects…
When people aren’t burning off a good amount of fat and their blood circulation is poor, there’s a good chance they will develop blockage of the arteries in the heart which can lead to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
One study found that men who spent more than 10 hours driving their car had a greater risk of suffering from heart disease than their counterparts who didn’t. That same study found that men who watch more than 23 hours of TV a week had a 64% greater chance of suffering from heart disease. And according to WebMD, which sited a different test, scientists compared a group of transit drivers who sat down for their job all day long and a group of conductors or guards who didn’t. What they found was that even though they had similar diets and lifestyles, the transit drivers were twice as likely to develop heart disease.
“The effects of too much sitting are hard to counter with exercise,” says WebMD “Even if you work out seven hours a week — far more than the suggested 2-3 hours — you can’t reverse the effects of sitting seven hours at a time.” With that said, no one is recommending that people should skip their workouts regardless (WebMD).
It should come to no surprise that couch potatoes tend to gain weight. According to Healthline, moving muscles are needed to release lipoprotein lipase which is responsible for processing fats and sugars. The more one sits, the less these molecules are released and the more fat stores are increased. Instead of burning fat to fuel itself, the body will turn to carbohydrate. As one’s waistline expands, they are also at risk for metabolic syndrome.
Not only that, but their stomachs are compressed when sitting at a desk which can lead to digestive issues. The gastrointestinal tract is affected causing symptoms that include bloating, gas, heartburn and
It may seem counter intuitive, but those who stay seated thinking that they resting are really putting more stress on their body. This resting puts stress on the muscles of the back, neck and spine. Sure, good posture can help, but sitting for long hours at a time will eventually lead to slouching. When one bends their back forward with their shoulders slumped, there is a lot of stress placed on the shoulders.
“Over time, if this slouching finds its way into your life outside the office, it can actually completely alter how your shoulder blades move and function,” says Ashley Moor in her article for Best Life. In the article, she cites a 2008 study that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. “After long periods spent sitting, participants in the study found that it was harder to lift their arms above their heads—a motion that becomes more difficult for the muscles in your shoulder after they become accustomed to a slouching position” (Best Life).
Some people will experience intense pain in their lower back after sitting too long. The reason is that the sacrum bone (which is located over the tailbone or coccyx) will shift or stiffen and will make the sacrum weaker. This can lead to inflammation of the sacroiliac joint which can send shooting pain down one’s back, hips and legs.
Bad posture will also affect the wear and tear on one’s disks and joints. When one’s postural muscles become weak and the sacrum bone shifts, the hip joints also begin to fail leading to premature degeneration and increasing chronic pain.
The Back and Legs:
Believe it or not, the longer one sits, the more the muscles in the back and muscles of the legs will lose their ability to operate properly. They will begin to atrophy and weaken. These normally strong muscles that help one to stand and stabilize when walking no longer work as effectively as they once did and can cause injury.
Even during sitting, the muscles will actually give less resting support. When that happens, people tend to sag into their seat rather than sit there upright. The body will get used to sitting for hours and in turn will allow the hip flexors to relax. Then, they will get weaker, will shorten and might even lead to arthritis of the back.
“Since the hip flexors—which control the movement of the pelvis and, subsequently, the lower back—are constantly strained by sitting, this increases pressure on the facet joints of the lower spine,” says Moor. To put it simply: use it or lose it.
As with the back, one’s shoulders and neck muscles will stiffen as well after prolonged sitting and is especially true if one is starring into computer screen. The National Health Statistics Report by the Center for Disease Control claims that over 50% of American adults (about 125 million) has some type of musculoskeletal pain disorder (Sitflow.com).
Blood flow to the lower parts of one’s body decreases when sitting. Blood will pool in the legs of people who sit too long at a time which then causes the veins to swell, twist and/or bulge. These effects can cause spider veins, broken blood vessels or varicose veins. While it isn’t usually a serious problem, varicose veins can be painful and blood clots can be highly dangerous because once a clot reaches to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism.
Healthline reports of one study that showed men who sat and watched TV for 23 hours per week were found to have a 64% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who only binge-watched for 11 hours a week. If one sits for even longer periods, the risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke increases by 147% (Healthline).
When one is sitting, the lungs have less room to grow when breathing and therefore don’t operate at full capacity. When this happens, healthy oxygen is robbed from the body and can lead to lightheadedness, confusion, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath.
Excessive Sitting Can Cause Diseases
Here is how excessive sitting can bring out the worst in people…
For some reason, people are more susceptible to Diabetes if they sit a lot. Not because they burn fewer calories than someone who moves around a lot more, but from the actual act of sitting. Strangely, no one seems to know why. One study done performed in 2011 and published in the Journal Metabolism found that the body reacts differently to insulin (the hormone burns sugar and carbs for energy) for those who sit rather than stand. The body doesn’t break down glucose as well when sitting which can lead to diabetes. One study showed that just five days of bed rest saw an increase of insulin resistance. Those who sit more than others have 112% increased risk of diabetes.
The odds of getting lung, colon, breast, uterine, and endometrial cancers goes up for those who stay seated. However, doctors are entirely sure why. Some suspect that the higher production of insulin has an encouraging effect on the body to grow more cells. Contrast that to exercise, physical activity tends to have an antioxidant effect on the body. At any rate, these cancers can be linked to weight gain, changes in hormone levels, metabolic dysfunction and inflammation.
Learning How to Stay Seated and Improve Your Health
Sadly, even if one goes to the gym on a regular basis, it may not be enough to undo the damage that has been done while sitting in one’s cubicle. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to minimize the damage from prolonged sitting.
- Doctors recommend that for every one or two hours or sitting at one’s desk, one should get up and walk about for a minute or two.
- Take time several times a day to stretch.
- See if you can order a standing desk with your company or perhaps even invest in a treadmill desk. Whatever you can do to keep your arms and/or legs moving, the better.
- Remember to tighten your muscles from time to time and focus on good posture rather than allow oneself to just sink into their chair.
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