Sitting is the majority of what people do nowadays, thanks to continuous technological advancements. The reasons for doing so may vary, but believe it or not, people spend most of their time sitting nowadays.
While it may sound normal and even relaxing, sitting, especially for so long, can compromise our health. It all started when Dr. James A. Levine first coined and claimed that “sitting is the new smoking,” which was initially thought to be dramatic by many medical experts.
However, after further studies, the claim is now believed to be accurate and considered “a silent killer” by many health professionals. In this article, we’ll delve into the science-backed reasons why sitting for an extended period is detrimental to our health.
The Health Risks of Prolonged Sitting
The human body isn’t designed for a sedentary lifestyle with prolonged sitting. It only strains the neck and lower back, which aren’t also made to support the body in a sitting position for long periods. It can lead to tight hips, back problems, and osteoporosis too.
Instead, the human body functions best when it spends significant time standing and moving, like walking. Physical activities can also help the body to metabolize nutrients, aid digestion, and keep the blood moving.
On the other hand, prolonged sitting only stalls the way the body breaks down fats and sugars properly. Since it also encourages a lack of physical activity, it could result in poor sleep quality, affecting the rest the body needs to repair itself and continue crucial body processes.
Sleep deficiency may perpetuate the cycle of sedentary behavior as well. If a person is physically and mentally exhausted from being sleep-deprived, they will likely feel less motivated to be active.
Moreover, sitting burns fewer calories. As a result, the body accumulates excess calories deposited as fat, which could lead to obesity. Even worse, living a sedentary lifestyle while obese increases the risk of developing insulin resistance, the most critical factor for metabolic syndrome, and, more importantly, type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome increases a person’s abdominal obesity, blood sugar, body fat, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. All of these combined greatly increase the risk of developing more critical health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Prolonged sitting may also cause clots in the legs. A medical expert from Sanford Cardiovascular Institute said this can happen even with only three to four hours of continuous sitting.
This leg clot is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is extremely serious. Its most serious complication is when the clot breaks off, travels to the lungs, and stays there. This can cause a blockage called pulmonary embolism (PE), a medical emergency that can be fatal.
Sitting for prolonged periods doesn’t only result in physical health problems but can also take a mental toll. It increases the risk of dementia and anxiety. The Sanford cardiologist explained that this happens because mental health highly depends on being active and exercising.
In summary, prolonged sitting increases:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- The risk of obesity
- The risk of mortality due to cardiovascular disease
Several recent studies have also found that it could increase the risk of developing some cancers, including lung, uterine, and colon cancers, and their morality. However, the reason behind this is still unknown, so further studies are still needed to verify the claim.
All of these health issues caused by prolonged sitting are the reasons why it’s referred to as the “new smoking.” Specifically, according to studies, sitting for at least eight hours and physical inactivity share similar risks of dying from smoking and obesity.
Keep an active lifestyle. Research has found that active people have sitting as one of the minimal risk factors for death. Other studies suggest that 60-75 minutes of moderately intense workouts may negate the risks of prolonged sitting.
Additionally, consider investing in:
- a medicine ball – to engage core muscles and avoid slouching
- a standing desk – to encourage standing
- an under-the-desk treadmill – to squeeze periodic movements throughout the day
Their costs are nothing compared to the medical costs one may face when they fall sick. Take advantage of no credit check loans guaranteed approval if the budget is tight. There are also other alternative cost-effective options for these things as well. The key is research.
However, despite regular exercises, note that if one still sits continuously for six to eight hours with no break, they’re still susceptible to the potential risks of prolonged sitting. Instead of a once-a-day workout, moving around at more frequent intervals is better.
Take a break after 30 minutes of continuous sitting. Research has shown people who did it have lower mortality rates. For example, stand up, stretch, or walk around after a 30-minute show, game, task, or meeting.
Sitting these days is inevitable. Most of our necessary activities related to leisure, parenting, studies, and work are performed while sitting. The good news is that there are ways to counteract the potential and detrimental risks of prolonged sitting.