Research in recent years has found that prolonged sitting affected people’s fitness levels, regardless of whether they exercised or not. Two hours of sitting cancelled out the benefits of 20 minutes of exercise when it came to cardio-respiratory fitness. This means that if you did a 20 minute run in the morning but then sat for 2 hours straight, your exercise effort was almost completely wasted!! It’s a bit like thinking you can smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and negate the effect by going for a jog in the evening.
The researchers also looked at six studies on half a million people and found that watching TV for more than three hours a day was linked with an increased risk of death in all but the most active people. The death rate was significantly higher in people who watched TV for five hours or more a day. These studies were independent of age, sex, education, smoking, hypertension BMI and exercise.
Why is stitting so bad?
Humans are built to stand upright. Your heart, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and bowel systems are designed to work most effectively that way. Sitting for prolonged periods of time puts load on these systems. When you sit, you use less energy than you do when you stand or move. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns. They include obesity and a number of other conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Effects of prolonged sitting on the body:
- Legs and gluteals (bum muscles) Sitting for long periods can lead to weakening of the muscles. These large muscles are important for walking and for stabilising you. If these muscles are weak you are more likely to injure yourself, fall, or develop strains when you
- Weight Gain – One of the more obvious and faster hitting consequences of sitting too much is that it’s really easy to gain weight. Moving your muscles helps your body digest the fats and sugars you eat. If you spend a lot of time sitting, digestion is not as efficient, so you retain those fats and sugars as fat in your body.
- Hips and back – Just like your legs, your hips and back will not support you as well if you sit for long periods. Sitting causes your hip flexor muscles to shorten, which can lead to problems with your hip joints. if you consistently sit with poor posture or don’t use an ergonomically designed chair or workstation it can cause the discs, ligaments and other soft tissues to “creep”, which results in laxity of joints and increased risk of injury.
- Anxiety and depression – While the links between sitting and mental health are not fully understood, they do know that the risk of both anxiety and depression is higher in people that sit more.
- Cancer – Emerging studies suggest the dangers of sitting include increasing your chances of developing some types of cancer, including lung, uterine, and colon cancers. The research found that even in physically active individuals, prolonged sitting increased the risk, and the risk worsened with each two hour increase in sitting time. https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/106/7/dju206/1010488
- Heart disease -Sitting for long periods has been linked to heart disease. Numerous research suggests that inactivity and sitting for long periods have a 147 per cent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
- Diabetes-Studies have shown that even five days lying in bed can lead to increased insulin resistance in your body. A Dutch study indicates that people with type 2 diabetes spent close to half an hour more of their day on a couch or sitting at a computer than those without the illness. After the math was done, it turned out that just an extra hour is enough to increase your chance of developing the condition by 22 percent.
- Varicose veins- Sitting for long periods can lead to varicose veins or spider veins (a smaller version of varicose veins). This is because sitting causes blood to pool in your legs.
- Deep vein thrombosis- Sitting for too long can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), e.g. on a long plane or car trip. A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the veins of your leg. DVT is a serious problem, because if part of a blood clot in the leg vein breaks off and travels, it can cut off the blood flow to other parts of the body, including your lungs, which can cause a pulmonary embolism. This is a medical emergency that can lead to major complications or even death.
- Stiff neck and shoulders and headaches – If you spend your time hunched over a computer keyboard, this can lead to pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders. See our blog on text neck
- Osteoporosis – while mostly affecting older people, Physical activity regulates bone maintenance and stimulate bone formation including the accumulation of mineral, in addition to strengthening muscles, improving balance, and thus reducing the overall risk of falls and fractures.
So we now know that sitting too much can take a serious toll on your health and possibly increase your chance of dying prematurely. But if you’re stuck in your chair at a desk job all day or do long commutes to work don’t despair – there are plenty of things you can do.
Let’s start with the basics:
- Reduce the time between moving, don’t be still for too long. Get up for 2 minutes every half hour to get the blood flow through the major muscle groups, this alone will negate the effects of sitting for 8 hours.
- Try to do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardiovascular exercise. eg. five days of 30 minutes walking. Can also be done in 10-minute intervals or more.
- Try and do two days of strength training per week i.e. Resistance training, Pilates, Yoga etc. The older you get the more important this becomes.
- The above points are minimum activity recommendations, research shows that health benefits increase with increased activity levels.
- Blood sugar levels will decrease if a person sitting for long periods did moderate exercise for 2 minutes every 20 – 30 minutes
- Moderate activity can be as simple as just a gentle walk, stretching etc.
- Make small changes to your behavior such as choosing to take the stairs instead of the lift, take your lunch break outside, incorporate a quick walk in your day or just park your car further away from the shops. Any activity that makes you move more is going to be beneficial.
It’s very clear that less sitting and more moving contribute to better health. The impact of movement (even leisurely movement) can be quite profound on your health and overall well-being. Move often and regularly to improve your quality of life. For more information, advice or if injuries are preventing you from moving as much as you like, please get in contact by Tel 0266744032 or visit our website www.tweedcoastchiropractic.com.au
What about a Sit to Stand desk? This gets asked a lot. Our advice regarding these is, they are not much better unless you follow the rule of getting up for a micro-stretch every 30 mins. Some patients also end up doing prolonged standing, which can have it’s own consequences.