You might have noticed the seeming deluge of stories from all areas of the media talking about the dangers of long-term sitting, and the more you read into this topic the scarier it can get. The trouble is that it can be hard to pull out the facts from the drama. Some articles have an alarmist tone: everyone who sits is doomed and there’s nothing you can do about it! While others point out seemingly easy and simple ways to completely undo the negative health effects that come from hours of daily sitting and its really no big deal.
So what’s the truth? Are one of these points of view correct or is the truth somewhere in the middle?
While new studies are being done on this topic every day and information on this topic is going to continue to shift based on any new facts that come to light, there’s a lot of reliable information about sitting right now from sources like the Mayo Clinic, so without any further wait let’s dive in and get a sense of all the ways that sitting can negatively affect your health!
Wait, Sitting Can Cause Death?
As sensationalist as this headline can see, multiple studies have shown this and confirmed it. This includes test groups where everyone is active outside of the work, everyone is sedentary, or everyone is somewhere in the middle. In other words, between multiple studies every easy to see potential pitfall or outside influence was accounted for to make sure the two groups being compared had as much in common as possible so that the long amount of sitting was the major factor.
Across all these studies from early less controlled general studies to the very specific later ones that really filtered down the potential outside influences, the effect was the same. People who sat longer for long periods of time throughout the day died in larger numbers, and at younger ages.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
– People who sit for long periods of time throughout the day are 125% more likely to have a heart attack or other heart related cause of death
– A 50% increase in death via any cause
That’s some pretty heavy stuff.
Sitting Wrecks The Body In Multiple Ways
Part of why long periods of sitting is so insidious is because of how it wrecks the body on so many different ways.
One of the major ones is poor blood circulation. While many people tie this into the heart issues without a second thought, the truth is that this also has direct effects on many other factors, as well. Poor blood flow to the brain is why so many people in modern times suffer from brain fog and an inability to think clearly. Poor circulation in the legs can lead to short and long-term issues with ankle swelling, sore knees, and especially with sore or bad hips.
None of those are good things. Most people don’t sit with perfect posture all day, either, which means a weakening of stomach muscles, back muscles, shoulder muscles, and neck muscles. This can lead to increasing back pain and issues, increasing neck pain or neck issues, and any time you’re overcompensating for hips, neck, or back you are going to drastically increase the chances of muscle pulls or injuries to other connected areas of the body.
People who sit for long periods of time tend to have an overactive Pancreas, which can be deadly for a wide variety of reasons including but not limited to: pre-diabetes, diabetes, obesity, & cancer. Since the muscles aren’t absorbing insulin the Pancreas keeps pumping out more and the cycle picks up momentum and continues.
Too much sitting can even partially undo the positive effects of exercising, which is a double whammy considering that for many people the solution to dealing with sitting all day is frequently exercising. Sitting for long periods without a break can’t be 100% overcome with exercise.
Finally, the long-term effects on the head may not be completely understood yet but those that have been discovered are pretty terrifying. Far from just stopping at foggy morning mind, there seem to be large spikes in jumps in anxiety, clinical depression (and all the health problems that brings by itself), and long-term even increases in dementia.
Those are a lot of negative effects to sitting all day
So What Can You Do?
The good news is that are several things that an individual can do in order to help at least minimize the impact of an office job. While it’s easy to say something far sweeping like “Stop working at an office job, stop spending time on the computer (very hard if you make a living that way), or stop being a truck driver,” none of these are actually practical. While the amount you can do will vary based on job or location, keep this short list in mind because these things have been shown to have a positive effect:
– Get up every 45 minutes at a minimum (every 15 or 30 is better)
– Standing desks (or even treadmill desks for the ridiculously ambitious) Desk View – Floating Desks
– Exercise equipment in living room and/or TV room
– Regular exercise program
– When you have to sit, make sure to sit the right way with proper form to minimize the negative effects
Adding together even several of these small things can make a massive difference in the long run. Never sit for commercials, never pass up the chance for a good walk, and even moving around for a minute or two every quarter hour makes a big difference.
While sitting for long periods of time might be hard to avoid depending on your profession, the good news is that there are more ways than ever to counter these new lifestyle dangers and put yourself in a good long-term position to be happy and healthy. Don’t blow off the dangers of sitting daily for large periods of time. These are serious health issues that can sneak up on you in an instant!