Are you sitting too much?
Research shows that sitting for long periods of time is linked to a host of health problems, including obesity and metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol. Sitting for long periods of time also appears to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
One study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day on television or other screen entertainment with adults who spent more than four hours a day on television or other screen entertainment. Those with more screen time are:
- Risk of death from all causes increased by nearly 50%
- About 125% increased risk of events related to cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack
The increased risk is separate from other traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking or high blood pressure.
Sitting in front of the TV isn't the only problem. Any prolonged sitting – such as sitting behind a desk or behind the wheel at work – can be harmful. What's more, spending a few hours a week in the gym or otherwise engaging in moderate or vigorous activity does not appear to significantly offset the risk.
12 Reasons Why Sitting Too Long Is Bad for Your Health
it hurts your heart
Scientists first noticed the problem in a study comparing two similar groups: bus drivers who sit most of the day, and conductors or guards who don't. Although their diets and lifestyles were similar, people who sat were twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who stood.
it will shorten your life
If you sit for long periods of time at a time, you are more likely to die prematurely from any cause. Exercising every day or not doesn't help. Of course, this is no excuse not to go to the gym. If you do this, your time may be shorter.
Dementia is more likely
If you sit too much, your brain may look like the brain of someone with dementia. Sitting for long periods of time also increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are all contributing factors. Moving throughout the day can help reduce the risk of all of these health problems more than exercise.
You will undo all your exercises
The effects of prolonged sitting are difficult to offset through exercise. Even if you exercise 7 hours a week (far more than the recommended 2-3 hours), you won't be able to reverse the effects of sitting for 7 hours at a time. Don’t give up on all that hard work in the gym just to lie on the couch for the rest of the day. Keep moving!
Your chance of developing diabetes increases
Yes, you're also more likely to get it if you sit all day. It's not just that you burn fewer calories. It seems that true meditation can do this. It's not clear why, but doctors think sitting for long periods of time may change the way the body responds to insulin, the hormone that helps the body burn sugar and carbohydrates for energy.
You may develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in the legs, usually when you sit still for too long. If a blood clot breaks off and lodges in the lungs, it can be serious. You may notice swelling and pain, but some people have no symptoms. That's why it's best to stop sitting for long periods of time.
you will gain weight
Watch a lot of TV? How many hours have you been surfing the Internet continuously? You are more likely to be overweight or obese. That's great if you exercise every day, but it won't drastically reduce the weight you gain from too much screen time
Your anxiety may increase
It could be that you often engage in screen-based activities alone. If this disrupts your sleep, you may become more anxious. Plus, too much alone time can pull you away from friends and loved ones, which is linked to social anxiety. Scientists are still trying to figure out the exact cause.
it will ruin your back
Sitting puts a lot of stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine. It's even worse if you're hunched over. Look for a chair that’s ergonomic – meaning it’s the right height and supports your back in the right places. But remember: No matter how comfortable you feel, your back still doesn't like sitting for long periods of time. Stand up and move around for a minute or two every half hour to keep your spine aligned.
it can cause varicose veins
If you sit for too long, blood will accumulate in your legs. This puts extra pressure on your veins. They may become swollen, twisted or bulged – what doctors call varicose veins. You may also see spider veins, broken bundles of blood vessels, nearby. They are usually not serious but can be painful. Your doctor can tell you about treatment options if you need them.
If you don't move it, you might lose it
Inactive older adults may be more susceptible to osteoporosis (weak bones) and may slowly become unable to perform basic tasks of daily living, such as bathing or going to the bathroom. While moderate exercise won't prevent this, you don't have to run marathons or work in agriculture to maintain mobility in your golden years. Just don't stay on the couch for hours at a time.
Your cancer risk increases
You may be more likely to develop colon, endometrial, or lung cancer. The more you sit, the higher the odds. Older women are more likely to develop breast cancer. If you're super active, this doesn't change at all. What matters is how much you sit.
Overall, the solution seems to be to sit less and move more.
How to take a stand
Get more exercise every day: stand up and stretch every half hour or so. Whenever you get the chance, simply stand instead of sitting, or think about the way you walk while you work. For example:
- Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch.
- If you work at a desk for long periods of time, try a standing desk, or improvise a high table or counter.
- Take a walk with your colleagues instead of gathering in a conference room for a meeting.
- Place your work surface above the treadmill (put your computer screen and keyboard on stands or a dedicated treadmill-friendly stand-up desk) so you can stay active throughout the day.
The effects of exercise—even leisurely exercise—can be profound. First, you'll burn more calories. This may lead to weight loss and increased energy. Even better, the muscle activity required for standing and other movements appears to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fat and sugar in the body. When you sit, these processes stop—and your health risks increase.
When you stand or actively move, you restart these processes.