Health Dangers of Sitting Too Much Are Very Real
Of all things…sitting too much is what you should worry about?
It might seem silly to say that the dangers of sitting could actually lead to disease, disability, and death. In our modern world, this is a habit that is literally killing us.
The World Health Organization (WHO) calls sedentary behavior a global public health problem that will likely get far worse. Approximately 3.2 million preventable deaths per year are directly connected to lack of physical exercise!
They explain, “Increased urbanization has resulted in several environmental factors which may discourage participation in physical activity such as violence, high-density traffic, low air quality (pollution), and lack of access (parks, sidewalks, sports/recreation facilities).”1
The Better Health Channel in Australia equates the dangers of sitting to a habit as bad as smoking! It is the fourth leading cause of death due to non-communicable diseases.2
They go on to stress that human beings are built to stand upright. It’s how our systems function best – from blood flow to oxygenation to digestion.
When you stay seated for long periods, blood tends to collect in your legs, it’s harder for your arteries to dilate, basic metabolism slows down, automatic processes inside your body are then impacted…and all of this leaves you vulnerable to all sorts of physiological and even psychological repercussions!3
An article from The Washington Post listed out the areas of the body that suffer most when you spend too much time sitting.4
When You Sit Too Long…Health Risks
- Organ damage (particularly to the heart, pancreas, and colon)
- Muscle degeneration (abs, hips, and rear)
- Poor circulation
- Softening of bones
- Chronic pain (neck, shoulders, and back)
- Lower brain function
- More than 60% higher risk of early mortality
A report in The Annals of Internal Medicine stated that sitting too much drastically increases your risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and even cancer. In fact, your risk of being diagnosed with a chronic illness such as diabetes is 90% higher if you regularly sit for 8-12 hours a day!5
If you don’t think you sit that much…really break it down and you might find that you do.
Sitting Easily Gets Out of Hand
Millions (if not billions) of us spend a lot of time on our behinds. Between television, computers, smart phones, and the fact that far more jobs are taking place at a desk than ever before…we simply are not moving enough!
Take a moment to consider how much time you spend sitting.
Perhaps you have a commute back and forth to work, you sit behind a computer, or you aren’t in good health. How much time do you think you spend in a car or a chair (home, restaurant, work) each day? When you socialize, eat, or take in entertainment…you’re probably sitting. You sit when you travel, when you have your nails done, when you go to a sporting event, and getting back and forth to all those places (whether you’re driving or not).
Truly breaking it down…you can see that the time on your tush can really add up!
Does Exercise Nullify Sitting Too Much?
Researchers from Toronto analyzed more than 50 studies done on sedentary behavior. They discovered that even regular exercise doesn’t counter the effects of sitting for long periods of time.6 That’s because the amount of time we’re sitting down is so much higher than any other activity and it’s causing damage that isn’t reversed with half an hour of movement.
In other words, sitting too long cancels out the good habits you have!
3 Tips to Combat the Dangers of Sitting
- Know how much you’re sitting every day. Like most of us, you will probably be shocked when you truly break down how much you’re sitting throughout the course of your day. Roughly calculate your time working, driving, relaxing, and eating. Figuring out your daily sit number will (hopefully) make you more conscious of the problem.
- Take “commercial” breaks. Set timers so that you get up at least once every hour for 10-15 minutes whether you’re on your computer or in front of your television. If you’re watching TV, use the commercials to remind you to get up and move around. Take a lap around your house while they play (you’ll hear them…they’re so loud). Walk from your living room to your back door or stand beside your couch for however long it plays, use it as a timed exercise break. Maybe even get a good stretch session in.
- Stand whenever possible. If you have the option to get a standing desk, definitely consider it. If you have a high bar or counter in your kitchen, eat two of your meals there. [Forget those old myths that you need to sit to digest…it’s not true!] If you’re on the phone, walk around. Stand up to check Facebook. Get your body upright – even if you need a walker or other form of support.7
Spending all your time in a gym isn’t the answer if you spend a lot of your non-gym time on your tush. In fact, if you sit too much, too much cardio can cause more harm than good on stiff joints, muscles, and bones.8
Choose low-impact exercises. Yoga, tai chi, and swimming are excellent but simple, gentle stretching is going to do wonders for your oxygen flow, muscle stiffness, chronic pain, and overall brain cognition.
Experts suggest ten minutes of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) for every hour that you’re awake. Stretching, gentle movements that remind your metabolism that it needs to stay alert and improve circulation throughout your body.9
Cooking, cleaning, and hobbies are all excellent low impact activities that help keep your body healthy and happy. Ignoring this strange problem is going to lead to major problems down the road for the office sector, dispatchers, and transportation workers who spend many hours sitting in one place. The dangers of sitting are truly a global problem.
We have got to stand up.
1World Health Organization: Physical Inactivity: A Global Public Health Problem
2 Better Health Channel: The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking
3 Bloomberg: Dangers of Sitting
4 The Washington Post: The health hazards of sitting
5 Diaz KM, et al. Patterns of sedentary behavior and mortality in U.S. middle-aged and older adults: A national cohort study. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017;167:465.
6 Saeidifard F, et al. Differences of energy expenditure while sitting versus standing: A systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2018;25:522.
7 Mayo Clinic: What are the risks of sitting too much?
8 CNN: Yes, sitting too long can kill you, even if you exercise
9 Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology; April 2006, Volume 26, Issue 4