Even if most of your work involves sitting at a desk to make the needed bucks for bread and butter, your body rarely understands that. It takes the damaging toll of consecutive sitting, which impacts your health severely. A survey indicates that approximately 70% of Americans who work full-time hate abhor sitting yet 86% still sit every day. These statistics show that lots of people fall into the fold of health risks of sitting at a desk all day.
Sitting at a desk for most of the day contributes to a sedentary lifestyle. Physical inactivity, in turn, chips in 3 million preventable deaths annually on the globe. This accounts for 65% of all the worldwide deaths. Moreover, 27% of the diabetic cases, 21-25% of colon and breast cancers, and around 30% of ischaemic heart diseases are due to a sedentary lifestyle.
In addition to these figures, the effects of constant sitting on your health are numerous and varied. This is also the reason why sitting is being termed as “the new smoking.” Here is an in-depth look at the health risks of sitting at a desk all day:
Adds to your weight
This is the most obvious and well-known impact of consistent sitting, whether it is at your work station or in front of the television. Moving your muscles aids in proper digestion of fats and sugars. If you sit a lot, your digestion is not efficient, such that fats and sugars are retained instead of being properly broken down and assimilated throughout the body.
Even if you add exercise to the equation but still sit for extended time frames, you are at a snowballed risk of health problems like metabolic syndrome. Research suggests 60-75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity helps to combat the dangers of consistent sitting.
Most the time that you spend sitting does not involve a comfy cushioning for your back. This is specifically true in the case of working at your desk. You end up with a hunched back posture that leaves it an impact on your back by culminating in backaches.
Soreness with excessive sitting also extends to your necks and shoulders in addition to the brain. At the same time, this condition also chips in an inflexible spine. This is because sitting for long hours prevents the discs from moving and they get squashed unevenly. Simultaneously, the collagen around ligaments and tendons also harden, encouraging an inflexible spine. On the flip side, as you move, the soft discs expand and contract and soak up fresh blood and nutrients to remain flexible.
It is also common to get disc damage with prolonged sitting. Sitting more exposes you to a greater risk of a herniated lumbar disk. By sitting constantly, the weight of the upper body lies squarely on the sitting bones that are known as the ischial tuberosity, which mushrooms the odds of disc damage.
Typically, your weight is divided along the spinal arch, however, that is not the case with lots of hours dedicated to sitting. According to the AHA’s report, an average person in the US sits for 6-8 hours per day. This means the health risks are numerous for these folks.
Increased risk of colon cancer
Research connects excessive sitting with an increased risk of developing breast, endometrial, and colon cancer. The underlying reasoning is still unclear. However, the most widely accepted hypothesis explains that consistent sitting encourages the production of excess insulin. This, in turn, encourages cell growth.
Another prominent theory is that sitting is opposite to regular movement that enhances the production of natural antioxidants, which kill damaging free radicals and possibly cancer-causing cells.
Contributes to early death
The negative health risks of sitting at a desk all day are not shunned with exercise or lessened by BMI, age or gender. In fact, research claims that there is a direct correspondence between excessive sitting and the risk of early mortality. Experts establish this direct relationship between death and long hours of sitting from a pool of 8000 study participants.
There is a silver lining to this cloud though, as people who sit for less than 30 minutes at one time are at a lower risk of death. This is why the researchers suggest that a person takes a break from sitting every 30 minutes. Keith Diaz, lead author of the new study advises, “We think a more specific guideline could read something like, ‘For every 30 consecutive minutes of sitting, stand up and move/walk for five minutes at brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting.”
Weak leg muscles
Consistent sitting prevents your muscles from moving, which also slows the blood circulation to the region. This is one reason why your foot ends up sleeping when you sit for prolonged hours. Atrophy of the gluteal muscles and the large leg is common due to extended periods of sitting. Resultantly, these muscles weaken and waste away.
If such muscles are weak, the impact of injuries such as those from falls is enhanced. Also, these muscles are essential for walking Soft glutes also hurt your stability.
Over-productive pancreas and diabetes
The pancreas is responsible for the production of insulin, a hormone that is involved in glucose regulation. Insulin carries glucose to the cells in the body. However, cells that are idle due to sitting do not readily respond to insulin so the pancreas goes into an overdrive and produces more insulin.
Resultantly, this can lead to diabetes and other diseases. Research shows that the body registers a decline in insulin response in only a day of extended sitting.
It is only natural that the brain also comes under the wrap of the health risks of consistent sitting. Moving muscles encourage the secretion of various brain and mood enhancing chemicals. This happens due to the increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain with muscle movement.
However, with constant sitting, the muscles are idle, and all such processes slow down. This takes an eventual toll on the brain functioning, making it foggy consequently.
Sitting for long hours can also climax in leg disorders by contributing soft bones and poor blood circulation to the legs. Slow blood circulation in the legs causes the fluid to pool or accumulate in the region. There are numerous problems that develop as a result. These include varicose veins, swollen ankles, and dangerous blood clots that are termed as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Inactivity of the leg muscles due to sitting also leads to soft bones. Active muscles, on the other hand, stimulate lower-body and hip bones to grow stronger, thicker, and denser. Some studies partially hold constant sitting responsible for the swollen numbers of osteoporosis cases.
Anxiety and depression
It is still unclear how long hours of sitting are associated with deteriorating mental wellbeing. However, what is known for certain is that there is a definite link between mental health and prolonged periods of sitting.
Sitting more is, in fact, linked with depression and anxiety. This can be attributed to the fact that by sitting a lot you miss on reaping the possible mental health advantages of physical activity.
Sitting a lot is also related to heart diseases. Muscles burn less fat with long hours of sitting. Simultaneously, blood laden with fatty acids head to the heart to clog it easily. Also, prolonged sitting correlates with high blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels.
Inactive lifestyle accounts for around 147% increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Moreover, other studies confirm that people with a sedentary lifestyle are two times more prone to having cardiovascular diseases relative to people with an active lifestyle.
Consistent sitting for extended time periods over time is linked with poor posture that can be permanent. Sore neck, shoulders, and back are common. However, if you constantly crane your neck forward towards your laptop, you can strain your cervical vertebrae. This can result in a permanent imbalance.
One essential tip to prevent such a problem is to make certain that you sit upright. In this regard, ensure that your back is straight and the chair supports your lower back.
Organ damage is another health concern of lots of sitting. The impact is comprehensible if you see inactivity in the perspective of sitting on your internal organs. Sitting for prolonged times burns less fat, clogs your heart, increases blood pressures, and more. All these chip in organ damage.
The health risks of sitting at a desk all day are wide-ranging. Prolonged sitting tends to leave its impact on the entire body from the top to toe. From a full-body length view, the effects start from a foggy brain to weak and inactive muscles that are prone to injuries. In between these two ends, there is weight gain, organ damage, amped up the risk of diabetes, risks of some cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and reduced mortality. It is critical to take preventative steps before it’s too late to mend.