Is Sitting Killing You?
Wow, that title is a bold question! Ok so no, I don’t believe that sitting is going to kill you right on the spot. But the question is, what are the long term effect that prolong periods of sitting have on you? Let’s first start out by asking yourself, how long do I sit throughout the day? Think about your time at work, in the car, watching television and so on. Maybe after thinking about it, you realize that you sit for the majority of your day. If so, now ask yourself how often you get up from your seat. If you find yourself on your beautiful rear end for countless hours during the day without getting up, it might be time to rethink your day and how often you are on your own two feet.
When you sit for long periods it can affect your body in many different ways, and not all of them are good. There are more and more studies coming out on the effects that long-term sitting has on your body.
Everything seems to cause cancer now, can sitting cause it too?
In this latest study by, Daniela Schmid and Michael F. Leitzmann of the University of Regensburg in Germany analyzed 43 observational studies, amounting to more than 4 million people’s answers to questions about their sitting behavior and cancer incidences. The researchers examined close to 70,000 cancer cases and found that sitting is associated with a 24% increased risk of colon cancer, a 32% increased risk of endometrial cancer, and a 21% increased risk of lung cancer.
The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that carries glucose to cells for energy. But cells in idle muscles don’t respond as readily to insulin, so the pancreas produces more and more, which can lead to diabetes and other diseases. A 2011 study found a decline in insulin response after just one day of prolonged sitting.
Muscles burn less fat and blood flows more sluggishly during a long sit, allowing fatty acids to more easily clog the heart. Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, and people with the most sedentary time are more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease than those with the least.
Flexible hips help keep you balanced, but chronic sitters so rarely extend the hip flexor muscles in front that they become short and tight, limiting the range of motion and stride length. Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is the main reason elderly people tend to fall.
Sitting requires your glutes to do absolutely nothing, and they get used to it. When you have weak glutes you cannot perform many exercises with correct form and loose stability.
Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain/mood-enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.
If most of you’re sitting occurs at a desk at work, craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle a phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae and lead to permanent imbalances.
SORE SHOULDERS AND BACK
The neck doesn’t slouch alone. Slumping forward overextends the shoulder and back muscles as well, particularly the trapezius, which connects the neck and shoulders.
How Does Sitting Effect Your Future?
Immediately After Sitting
Right after you sit down, the electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute. This is about a third of what it does if you’re walking. If you sit for a full 24-hour period, you experience a 40% reduction in glucose uptake in insulin, which can eventually cause type 2 diabetes.
After Two Weeks of Sitting for More Than Six Hours a Day
Within five days of changing to a sedentary lifestyle, your body increase plasma triglycerides, LDL (bad cholesterol), and insulin. This means your muscles aren’t taking in fat and your blood sugar levels go up, putting you at risk for weight gain. After just two weeks your muscles start to atrophy and your maximum oxygen consumption drops.
After One Year of Sitting More Than Six Hours a Day
After a year, the longer term effects of sitting can start to manifest subtly. According to this study by Nature, you might start to experience weight gain and high cholesterol. Studies in women suggest you can lose up to 1% of bone mass per year by sitting for over six hours a day.
After 10-20 Years of Sitting More Than Six Hours a Day
Sitting for over six hours a day for a decade or two can cut away about seven quality life years (the kind you want). It increases your risk of dying of heart disease by 64% and your overall risk of prostate or breast cancer increases by 30%.
The same study listed above done by Daniela Schmid and Michael F. Leitzmann of the University of Regensburg in Germany showed that you can’t exercise away sittings harmful effects. “Adjustment for physical activity did not affect the positive association between sedentary behavior and cancer,” Even participants who achieved the daily recommended levels of physical activity were at the same risk as those who spent their day sitting. “[The results] indicate that the increased risk of cancer seen in individuals with prolonged time spent sedentary is not explained by the mere absence of physical activity in those persons,” the researchers say.
Take a look at these short videos on the effects that sitting all day has on your body and health.
What Should You Do?
- Get up and walk around every 30-60 minutes.
- Get up and do some chair exercising. Here’s a link to a great chair workout.
- Try a standing desk.
- Walk more during your lunch break.
- Get up and stretch.
- Do something active instead of watching t.v.
- Anytime you’re on an office call stand up and pace around to talk.
- Take micro breaks and march in place for 30 seconds or touch your toes 20 times.
- Get up and move around during commercial brakes while watching t.v.
- Set a timer on your phone to remind you throughout the day to get up.
- When browsing your computer, do it standing up.
- Wander around and pick up or reorganize your desk (eventually your desk area may even be clean)
Now that you’ve taken in all this information it can sound a bit scary right? You have to understand that all of this is the worst case scenario and stressing about it will only cause more problems. Taking little steps at a time will help you in the long run! The first step today is getting up every 30-45 minutes for 5 minutes of movement.