Sitting is so much a part of our modern lifestyles that we often don’t realize how inactive we’ve become. For those of us who work online or in a work-at-home setting, sitting at a computer for hours on end working seems natural to our way of life. Add all the time you spend on the couch watching TV and in the car driving, and odds are you’re probably leading a sedentary lifestyle without even knowing it. And sitting for long periods of time is really, really bad for you.
Several studies show prolonged sitting ranks second after smoking as the world’s top risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Smoking edges out inactivity with 5.3 million deaths per year compared to 5 million deaths per year due to inactivity. "We just aren't really structured to be sitting for such long periods of time, and when we do that, our body just kind of goes into shutdown," observed Dr. Antronette Yancey (late UCLA public health professor) author of the book Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time.
Dr. Yancey had spent years working on developing programs to motivate people to get up and move. She emphasized the importance of healthy living through physical fitness and thought whoever invented sitting probably didn't have our best interests at heart. That's because sitting too much is dangerous. Here are six ways sitting is slowly killing you and you may not even notice it.
You don’t need an expert to tell you that sitting in front of the computer all day can give you body aches and pains, including a sore back and headache. Worse still, staring at the computer screen for prolonged spells of time leaves you prone to dry eyes. Dry eyes can lead to lower resolution of vision, severe damage to the eye ball and bad eye sight. But you already knew that, right?
One report reveals that when we sit all day, “electrical activity in the muscles drops…leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects” that can cause you to gain weight. In other words, being a couch potato makes you fatter—no surprise there. What is surprising, though, is that even if you hit the gym or the jogging path daily, sitting all day is still bad for you. Working out is not a panacea—it cannot counteract hours of being sedentary.
Another study conducted by German scientist Sabine Schaefer from the Max Plank Institute for Human Development reinforced anecdotal evidence that suggests sitting for long periods of time is not only bad for your body, but also for your mind. The study found that walking increases your resources of energy, which you can then invest in thinking and improve your working memory performance. Turns out the reverse also holds true. If you sit all day, it can lower your resources of energy, slow down your working memory performance and actually make you dumber. It’s a clear case of mental performance being superior when you are actually physically active.
Prolonged sitting can also trigger unhealthy metabolic changes that lead to a myriad of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, kidney stones and certain types of cancer. In fact, the statistics show for every two hours spent sitting in front of the computer or television you raise your risk of lung cancer by 6%, of colon cancer by 8% and of endometrial cancer by 10%. Your risk of heart disease increases by up to 64% and you are 18% more likely to die from diabetes when you sit for more than 11 hours per day.
You might think sitting in front of your computer the whole day makes you more productive, but in reality it lowers your productivity. That is because sitting for long hours per day causes fatigue and can trigger mood disorders like stress and depression. Evidently, a great deal of sitting not only messes up your physical and mental well-being, but also your emotional stability.
Researchers Van der Ploeg and colleagues found that sitting too much increases risk of death by 40% regardless of any other activities one does. You shave off seven years of quality life just by sitting for 11 or more hours per day. Moreover, people who sit too long are more likely to die in the next three years than those who don't sit as long. This science-backed information should shock and convince all of us to change our lifestyles and combat the deadly "sitting disease."
The answer to prolonged sitting, of course, is to get off your rear as often as you can. Stand at your desk; dance about; wiggle around; take a few steps back and forth; march in place to get your body moving, blood flowing and mind alert. Take routine breaks in between work and step away from the computer. Go do something else for a while. This will help to break up a day of inactivity and get you up and about, even if just for a few minutes.
You may also replace the chair at your desk with an exercise ball. "Sitting on an exercise ball helps strengthen your core while improving balance and flexibility,” Yancey said. “It also requires more energy, so a few calories will be burned.” Additionally, do the following simple stretch exercises while seated at your desk:
Remember, sitting all day is as dangerous to the body as smoking. The more you sit, the poorer your health. Fortunately, physical activity is an easy antidote for this deadly pandemic.
Watch Video: How to Sit Correctly When Working at a Computer
Image credit: shutterstock
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