Why is too much sitting dangerous ?
What happens in the sitting body and what are the negative health consequences?
SITTING AND THE HEART
Sitting leads to overall slower blood flow and a weakened heart muscle, resulting in higher blood pressure and chronic inflammation in the blood vessels.
The combination of unhealthy accumulation of body fat and reduced muscle mass leads to higher unhealthy fats circulating in the blood, resulting in an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Sitting for more than seven hours each day means an 85% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
For every two hours a person spends sitting each day, the risk for cardiovascular disease increases by an additional 5%.
SITTING AND CANCER
Sitting more than 8 hours daily increases the risk for lung cancer by 54%, uterine cancer by 66% and colon cancer by 30%.
This is in part due to hormonal changes (IGF-1), excessive insulin secretion, a state of constant inflammation and decreased production of antioxidant enzymes.
The risk of dying from cancer is increased by 82% for people who sit more than 11 hours per day.
NEUROLOGY & PSYCHOLOGY
SITTING AND THE BRAIN
Movement triggers the release of neurochemicals, which are essential for awareness, proper memory function and mood stability.
The brain functions like a muscle. Without enough movement, the brain virtually shrinks in size, increasing the risk of developing depression, anxiety, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), attention deficit disorder and more.
An impaired response to stress also negatively impacts numerous other organs, including the heart and the gut with futher implications for our cognitive and psychological wellbeing.
SITTING AND BREATHING
Sitting at a desk, with hunched shoulders and a rounded spine, leads to a substantial reduction in lung capacity, which is further exacerbated by a lack of diaphragmatic movement due to abdominal compression between the upper body and the flexed hip.
Over time, breathing becomes chronically impaired, leading to decreased energy and negative effects on the brain, including impaired focus and reduced memory and surprisingly an increased risk for stroke.
SITTING AND OVERWEIGHT
Sitting too long influences the dopamine and leptin hormones, which play an important role in the regulation of hunger and satiety. Weight gain as a result of inactivity can start a vicious cycle, in which it becomes harder and harder for people to lose weight.
Being overweight increases the risk of a number of serious conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and heart attack, stroke, cancer, kidney disease and liver disease; it can also result in sleep disturbances and cause a range of musculoskeletal problems.
SITTING AND DIABETES
The body’s ability to effectively respond to sugar intake is profoundly affected by prolonged sitting, leading to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Long-term increased blood sugar levels give rise to cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness and limb amputations.
SITTING AND LOWER BACK PAIN
Sitting puts enormous pressure on the spine, mostly at critical junctions. This results in herniated discs, chronic back pain and spinal degeneration.
Many also suffer mental effects from back pain, all too often leading to overprescription of opioids.
SITTING AND THE GLUTES
The gluteal muscles are an essential component for human locomotion and suffer enormous damage from sitting.
The chonic lack of extension in the hip muscles lead to tightness and a reduced range of motion, while weakened glute muscles decrease a person’s stability.
Both of these effects can lead to an increased risk for falls, particularly within the elderly population. Nerve compression can lead to chronic repetitive radiating pain throughout the legs.
SITTING AND DIGESTION
Sitting causes food to compress in the intestines, which impairs digestion and can lead to long-term low level inflammation in and around the intestine with negative effects on the healthy gut flora (microbiome).
This has been associated with diseases affecting the bowels, and can also contribute to allergies, asthma, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and cancer.
THE SCIENCE OF AGING
SITTING AND SHORTENED LIFESPAN
The ease of our modern workday comes at the expense of our longevity.
Sitting for long stretches of time increases the odds of a premature death.
WHY STANDING DESKS ARE NOT THE SOLUTION
Standing during work is no healthier than sitting. It does not solve the basic problem of not being active enough. No more calories are burned, many users complain of fatigue and back pain as well as pain in the legs.
In fact, the latest research points in the direction, that standing for extended periods of time might actually cause more harm than good.
WHY EXERCISE IS NOT ENOUGH
Exercise time and sedentary time are two entirely different entities. They are not as interconnected as we used to believe.
Contrary to the common opinion that too much sitting can be compensated by a plus of training, this is not possible. Sitting damages the body regardless of athletic activity and physical activity cannot correct for sitting time.