Is Excessive Sitting Unhealthy?
Many of you have probably heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” But what makes sitting comparable to a habit known to cause disease, serious chronic health conditions, and death? I mean, sitting is relaxing! And your body deserves the rest! However, many Americans unknowingly partake in excessive sitting every day. Ironically, I am sitting as I write this article, and you are more than likely sitting as you read!
What are the Risks of Excessive Sitting?
The majority of jobs around the world include long hours of sitting. An average daily routine consists of deskwork with minimal breaks for movement, which does not meet the activity requirements necessary for living a healthy life. Average days usually consist of sleeping, eating breakfast, commuting to work, working at a desk, commuting back home, relaxing after work, then having dinner, only to go back to sleep to prepare to repeat the same day all over again. With this in mind, you can imagine the extreme lack of movement that takes place in the average American’s life.
Not many people realize the toll that too much sitting can have on your body— even if you do regularly partake in physical activity or maintain a healthy lifestyle! Some serious health risks may be a result of extended sitting, such as:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Mental Illness/Depression/Anxiety
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)/Blood clots
- Reduction in memory or focus
Physical Effects of Sitting too Much
Over 25% of Americans sit for more than 8 hours each day with 44% of them getting little to no daily exercise. Spending an extended amount of time lounging with very little movement can cause the metabolism to slow down drastically. Studies show that sitting for over 30 minutes causes your metabolic rate to drop by about 90%, preventing your body from burning excess fat at a normal and healthy rate. Excessive sitting also leads to an increased chance of developing obesity, making it all the more important to maintain an active lifestyle. Furthermore, sitting for more than 7 hours per day can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression. Many people may experience an increase in prolonged sitting once diagnosed with anxiety and depression, thereby, worsening symptoms.
Sitting puts our muscles into a different posture than they are supposed to maintain. The body slouches as we relax our muscles, creating poor posture habits and restricting normal blood flow. Sitting causes the hamstrings to stretch, quadriceps to loosen, and hips to form an abnormal posture, resulting in poor alignment and balance. Poor hip alignment may result in the legs eventually collapsing inward and putting pressure on the kneecaps, lower back, and feet. Once you transition from prolonged sitting to a standing position, you may find that your body is stiffer as the muscles and joints re-align, likely irritating and straining muscles. By taking frequent breaks, you can move those relaxed muscles, increase blood flow, clear your mind, and boost energy levels.
Give Yourself a Break!
Your body deserves a break. Sitting isn’t bad if you sit for small amounts of time. Our bodies crave movement– we were not built for long periods of sitting. It is recommended that the body gets a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day to counteract the effects of sitting for many hours. Now, this is not suggesting that you must get a gym membership or participate in intense workouts every day. Exercising is essential, but doing something small such as a brisk long walk after work, taking frequent breaks away from your desk, or going for a light jog may be just enough to balance out the accumulated time spent sitting all day.
Taking breaks and relaxing are important for a healthy body and mind. This article encourages you to take a little time off from your long sitting stretch and get your body moving to eliminate health risks. If watching TV, get up to stretch during every commercial. If working at a desk, take frequent breaks, or walk over to see a coworker instead of emailing them. Take the longer route in the grocery store to get those extra steps in. Any amount of movement may just help prevent health risks and may lead to living stronger and healthier lives!
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