Sitting is a natural part of life, but in recent years, sitting has become a pandemic of its own. We’re going to discuss why sitting too long is bad for you, but before we do, it’s crucial to understand how much people sit.
One study from 2016 found that the average 12 – 19-year-old sat for 8.2 hours a day and adults over 20 sat for 6.4 hours a day. However, these figures are likely being underreported because other studies suggest that office workers sit for as long as 15 hours a day.
And these figures don’t account for you actually laying down to go to sleep at night.
Just for a moment, think about your daily routine:
- Do you sit at work or in your office?
- Do you watch television or play video games?
- Do you commute to work?
Even small changes have made a big difference in the amount of time people spend sitting. Twenty years ago, people would go to their friends’ houses to talk rather than FaceTime. Netflix wasn’t the streaming service that it is today, and people would actually go to the movies.
While they had to sit down and watch the newest blockbuster film, there was still a lot of walking involved and standing in line to get tickets.
In certain countries, especially the United States, walking around the city isn’t an option for most people. Many people are a 15+ minute car ride to the center of their cities, so walking is unfeasible.
Unfortunately, the risks of sitting too much are often not taught in school or even thought about by the average person.
Why Sitting Too Long is Bad for You
Some say that “sitting is the new smoking,” and the reason for this is that our sitting habits are leading to a wide range of health issues. A few of the many reasons that sitting is detrimental to your health are:
Weight Gain and Management
Most people are guilty of not exercising enough already, but sitting makes the problem worse. Around 13% of the world is obese, and this doesn’t account for people who are just overweight.
When you sit, it leads to:
- Inefficient digestion
- Retaining sugar and fat
Metabolic syndrome is also a major concern for people who sit too much. This syndrome is known to increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
However, if you engage in 60 – 75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day, you’ll combat some of the dangers of sitting.
Higher Risk of Heart Disease
People that sit most of the day are 2 times more likely than people that stand to have heart disease. Of course, the risk of heart disease rises with the person’s weight increase, too.
Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
People that sit more often than they stand are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. The risk of obesity and the impact of metabolic syndrome can compound to cause diabetes and other serious health issues.
When you sit, your metabolism slows and your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar is impacted.
Back and Hip Pain
It’s no secret that people who sit more often are at greater risk of hip and back pain. When you sit, you’re putting pressure on the discs in your spine, which can lead to compression. If you have poor posture, these discs can ache and hurt.
Additionally, disc degeneration is possible and can lead to a significant amount of pain.
On top of back and spine pain, sitting can also lead to the shortening of your hip flexor muscles. Short hip flexor muscles can lead to pain and tightness in the hip joints, too.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Sitting also allows the blood to pool in your legs. Long periods of sitting will cause varicose veins and can also lead to the more serious issue of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT can cause blood clots in your legs, which can be a serious issue that can lead to death if the clot cuts off blood flow to the lungs.
Nearly every major health institute worldwide agrees that people who sit too much are at greater risk of death overall. Sitting improves your odds of major health complications, including:
- Heart disease
Now that you know that sitting too long is bad for you, it’s time to take positive steps to counterbalance your sitting. Go for walks. Purchase a sit-stand desk and try to find the time to exercise every day.
A few other tips for reducing the impact of sitting are to:
- Breaking up long periods of sitting by getting up for a minute or two at a time
- Exercise for at least 150 minutes per week
- Opt to walk rather than drive a car or taxi when possible
Small changes can mean a world of difference for your health and may even help eliminate the risks of sitting too much.