The Detrimental Effects of Sitting

Sitting too much is bad. Sitting is the new smoking! It’s a killer… literally!

There was an article I have read on the internet entitled “Sitting is the Smoking of the Generation.” True enough. The average time that a person sits working in an office is 8 hours. Even more for some. Then we drive going home, and then spend a few more hours at home watching TV, working on the computer, or checking on what’s up with our social media friends.

There have been many published studies about the detrimental effects of sitting. Lack of physical activity kills roughly as many people as smoking, one article says. More than 5.3 million deaths would be avoided each year if all inactive people exercised, about the same toll as the 5 million deaths annually from smoking. Yes, that’s how bad sitting too much is.

evolution of man

But what exactly happens when we spend the whole day sitting? 

Well, hear ye…

Effects on the back:

Prolonged sitting can be a cause of low back pain. We know now that posture of whatever type [there is no real “bad” posture unless we speak of aesthetics where sitting or standing straight and tall is desirable], but staying in any position for long period can cause strain on the back muscles that might eventually lead to back pain.

Not only can prolonged habitual sitting cause low back pain, but it can also produce strain on the neck and upper trunk muscles causing neck pain and possible recurrent headaches. Again, it can be more from repetitive stress on the muscles and nerves than actual “faulty” posture.

Effects on the Circulation:

Sitting for long periods can slow down circulation. Normally, muscle contractions of leg musculatures aid to pump the blood back to the heart. With sitting with very little to no movement, blood pools down in the leg causing damage to the blood vessels producing varicosities, or even thrombosis.

There’s e-mail, e-card… and then there’s e-thrombosis. It’s a variant of DVT [deep venous thrombosis] due to, what else, but sitting for long periods of time. It is the formation of blood clots [called thrombus] in the lumens of the blood vessels of the legs.

Effects on Other Organs:

There have also been studies that show that sitting can cause problems in our body’s other vital organs, like the heart, pancreas, and colon. For example, the pancreas produces insulin but the muscles cannot utilize them because the muscles of a seated person are practically idle. This unutilized insulin can cause diabetes. One study found that a decline in insulin response in just a day of sitting.

So what can we do?

Since prolonged sitting leads to immobility, the solution is to move frequently during the day. Take “microbreaks” every 30 minutes or so. When watching television, take a walk during commercials. A walk to the kitchen to get water, for example. If working in your office, I guess you just have to be creative. You can set an alarm in your cellphone for example, to remind yourself that it’s time to move.

Here are some things you can do as you take those microbreaks.

  • Stand up straight and try to raise your hands with arms straignt as far as you can feeling a good stretch of you whole body. Hold for a few seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
  • Follow this up with backwards bends of the spine. Spread your feet part for support, stand straight, put your hands on your lower back, then bend backwards as far as you can. This somehow counteracts the forward position you do while working in your desk.
  • Contract your calf muscles by doing heel raises a few times. This helps mobilize the circulation in the legs.

It only takes 1 minute or so to so these three activities. We just have to be diligent about doing them.

  • It’s a good advice to alternate between standing and sitting position while working.

These are just few, simple things that you can do… But really, there are more movements you need to do with your arms. Consult your physical therapist for thorough assessment and exercise program especially if you start having lower back or neck pain. You might also need to have your breathing pattern checked!

Final words: This is taken form an article I read “Desk Jobs Can Be Killers, Literally”, by Richard Lovett,

“The message is clear: Sitting still for hours at a time might be a health risk regardless of what you do with the rest of your day… Just as you cannot compensate for smoking 20 cigarettes a day by a good run on the weekend, a bout of high-intensity exercise may not cancel out the effect of watching TV for hours on end. Patel’s study found that people who spent hours sitting had a higher mortality rate even if they worked out for 45 to 60 minutes a day. The researchers call these people “active couch potatoes.”

Hope this article helps. Stay healthy.

Any additional points you can give? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Love and peace.

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