Do you have a desk job? Sitting at a desk all day can be hazardous to your health. Sitting is not natural for humans who were designed to be on the move. However, it is estimated that 86% of American workers sit all day. On top of that, most sit when they get home from work. In total, Americans sit 13 hours per day and sleep for another 8. This means that for 21 hours a day, they are sedentary. Sitting has even been referred to as the new “smoking,” in terms of the damage it does to health and wellbeing.
More people are sitting in their leisure time than ever before as well. Labor saving devices like remote controls, computers and even drive through services are making Americans very, very sedentary and sick.
This problem has led to what has been coined “Sitting Disease.” and refers to metabolic syndrome and the problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. The American Medical Association has adopted a policy that recognizes the dangers of prolonged sitting and encourages employers and employees to explore options to sitting for long periods of time.
11 Scary Dangers of Sitting Too Long
So, what exactly are the dangers of sitting too long? Here are some scientifically researched concerns.
1. Sitting too much shortens your life
Scientists have discovered that persons who sit for most of the day are more likely to die from any condition than those who do not sit. This finding stands true even if you exercise daily. The American Cancer Society’s Cancer ll study found that women who sit more than six hours during the day during their leisure time had a 37% greater chance of death than women who sat for 3 hours or less. Men were found to have an 18% greater chance of death.
2. Sitting too much hurts your heart
Sitting for too long can have a negative impact on your heart. Researchers have found that people who sit most of the day compared to those that don’t sit have an increased risk of developing heart disease. In one study, men who sat 5 hours daily were 34% more likely to develop heart failure than men who sat 2 hours or less each day. Another study, conducted by The National Institutes of Health, found that women who sat more than 10 hours a day had a significantly higher risk of a cardiovascular event such as stroke, heart attack or heart disease compared to women who sat 5 hours daily. The biggest risk fell to women who sat more than 10 hours a day, got little to no exercise and were obese and over 70 years of age.
3. Sitting too much erases all your exercise benefits
Are you an avid gym rat? Well, that might be good, but only if you sit for less than 7 hours each day. Research shows that even those who hit the gym 7 hours a week don’t undo the negative impact of sitting for 7 hours each day.
4. Sitting too much hurts your brain
Too much sitting can reduce cognitive performance and cause dementia. In addition, one study found that sitting for too long causes a part of the brain that is responsible for making memories to “thin.” The sad fact again is that exercise won’t stop this.
5. Sitting increases the risk of diabetes
Scientists feel that sitting too long each day can change the way your body processes insulin. A study found that people who led sedentary lives were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome than those who had more active lives. During long periods of sitting muscles are used very little and there is far less energy burn, and metabolic pathways that regulate how the body stores blood sugar are less active and far less effective.
6. Sitting too much could cause you to develop a clot
Sitting too long without movement can cause a clot to form deep in the veins (DVT). In a sitting position, when legs are often moved infrequently and angled, blood flow fights against gravity. This can lead to the formation of clots. The very scary thing about a clot is that it can float around and end up in the lungs, severely damaging part of the lung.
7. Sitting too long can increase your blood pressure
There is a link between sitting for long periods of time and increased blood pressure. This stems from poor ergonomics and bad posture of the neck and back. A study conducted found that a link exists between the cells in the muscles of the neck and an area in the brain that is responsible for moderating blood pressure. Sitting for long periods of time causes the neck to become compressed and this can lead to a rise in blood pressure.
8. Sitting too long can cause your hips and back to become tight
Excessive sitting causes your hip flexors to shorten and can cause your back to become tight and painful. Sitting can cause compression on the discs in your spine and lead to chronic pain.
9. Sitting too long can cause cancer
Recent studies show that prolonged sitting can elevate the risk of a number of types of cancer including uterine, colon and lung. Research form the American Cancer Society found that women who spent 6 hours of free time sitting have a 10% greater risk of getting cancer than women who spend less than 3 hours of free time sitting each day. These women were more likely to develop an aggressive form of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and multiple myeloma.
10. Sitting too long can cause varicose veins
When you sit for long periods of time, blood pools in the legs. This can cause spider veins and varicose veins. These swollen, visible veins can be unattractive and lead to blood clots.
11. Sitting too long can cause anxiety and depression
Although it seems like a strange relationship, research shows that sitting too long can cause anxiety and depression. Some think that people who are more sedentary are prone to anxiety and depression because they are not getting the mental benefits of an active lifestyle.
11 Ways To Reduce The Amount Of Time Spent Sitting
You may think that because you have a desk job that you are doomed to be impacted by the negative effects of sitting. However, there is good news. There’s actually quite a few things that you can do to offset the health implications of sitting. Here are some suggestions.
1. Get up and walk every 30 minutes
If you have a desk job, set a timer and get up and move every 30 minutes. It is so easy to forget how long you have been sitting when you are engaged in an activity. Even if you get up and walk for one minute it will be helpful. If you have stairs in your office, take a stroll up and down a couple of flights.
2. Visit coworkers in person
Instead of emailing, calling or texting, get up from your desk and go visit coworkers in person.
3. Walk when on the phone
If you have a work call, take a walk. Even if you pace around your office it is better than sitting. It will actually help you think better too!
4. Get a standing desk
Although there has not been tremendous research done on standing desks, most people move more when they stand, If you have a standing desk, alternate legs you stand on, do calf raises and squats from time to time to keep the blood flowing. This is the most popular standing desk according to Amazon with hundreds of five star reviews.
5. Get a treadmill or bicycle desk
Learning how to walk and work takes some practice but for those who master this, it means constant movement which is good. Even just very slow walking for a better part of the day makes a big difference.
6. Be busy during your leisure time
In addition to moving more at work, avoid coming home from work and flopping into your favorite chair for your favorite show. Get out and exercise, ride a bike, take a walk and put the TV on hold for a more active leisure life.
7. Walk or bike to work
In addition to moving more at work, try riding your bike or walking (if you can) to your job. This takes time and effort but is well worth all the mental and physical benefits it brings.
8. Have moving meetings
Convince those in your office of the benefit of moving meetings. Take a walk – outdoors is great – to discuss matters of business with your colleagues.
9. Take up a new active hobby
Have you always wanted to ballroom dance or grow a garden? Instead of partaking in sedentary leisure activities, try something new, something active.
10. Get a dog
Not only does owning a dog give you a purpose but it also reduces stress, can help you stay fit and active, can improve your social life and help you lose weight.
11. Go for bar seats at restaurants
If you go out to eat, grab a bar seat. Sit on the front third of the stool; spread out your feet wider than hip distance, so they support a lot of your weight. Roll your hips forward and arch your back. This position is called “perching” and it helps your spine stay in a healthy “S” shape and distributes your weight evenly.