Is Sitting Too Long Harmful? How much time do you spend sitting at work? It’s something nobody pays much attention to, until problems arise. If you’re someone who works in front of a computer all day, you’re probably sitting too long. It’s possible you’re actually sitting for more hours than you’re lying down sleeping. And this isn’t good.
The human body was meant to move – and that means moving most of the time. When we sit still for lengthy periods, vital body organs are negatively affected. Medical research shows that when a person rises and starts moving after a long sit, the bodily systems that deal with cholesterol and blood sugar, to name just a few, are activated. They’re not activated when you’re sitting like a statue.
Surprising health issues brought on by sitting too long
Let’s break it down and look at how prolonged sitting can affect our body.
Heart: Sitting at work slows down blood flow and fat-burning. The result is more available artery-clogging fatty acids. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found that women who spend 10 or more hours sitting each day are far more likely to develop heart problems than women who sit daily for five hours or less.
Cancer: It is generally accepted that colon, lung, uterine, breast and endometrial cancers are more likely to develop in people who sit for long periods. This could be because of excess insulin production or low levels of antioxidants (which fight free radicals) resulting from little or no movement.
Becoming overweight or obese, as many sedentary people are, also may contribute to changes in biochemistry, metabolic problems, hormone alteration and inflammation, all of which can promote cancer.
Pancreas: Sitting too long – even for just one day – has been shown to cause the pancreas to produce too much insulin, which can lead to diabetes. Some researchers believe that people who sit for more than eight hours daily increase their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 90%.
Brain: Excess sitting at work
means less blood and oxygen to the brain, which can cause listlessness, lethargy, mental confusion and depression.
Digestion: Being still after eating compresses the food in your stomach, which can cause everything from heartburn and cramping to an imbalance of microbes in the digestive tract that may initiate celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Pain disorders and muscle tension
You’ve probably experienced knotting pain in your neck or upper shoulder area when you’ve sat for extended periods. Often this situation is caused by sitting too long or sitting with poor posture, which is common the longer you sit.
When you neglect to adjust your posture for too long of a time, the body sends you signals in the form of painful muscle tension in the areas of your body used for correct posture. Once again, dis-use of the body creates physical issues that can range from irritating to completely disabling.
What to do about it
Assuming you haven’t developed a serious medical or pain condition, your main focus should be preventing the negative effects of sitting too long. It starts with dramatically decreasing your sitting time by getting up often and stretching a little or doing a few minutes of light exercise. Many experts recommend this kind of break once every hour.
Unfortunately, you can’t bypass these breaks and do an hour of aerobics or weight lifting after work. It’s the length of uninterrupted sitting time that causes the problem, not the ratio of sitting vs. being active throughout your day. But: you still should participate in regular exercise (example: walking, running, sports, weight training, swimming, etc.) for 20 or more minutes five or more times per week to bring about better health.
If you’re experiencing pain that you believe may have been caused or is being worsened by a lifestyle that requires long periods of sitting at work, Aligned Medical Group is here to help. We’re at 4 Industrial Blvd. #200 in Paoli, Pa. To schedule an appointment, call (610) 644-3166. We’ll provide the direction and treatments you need to get back on your feet – hopefully for longer periods!