The Dangers of Sitting

The Dangers of Sitting by Elmira Family Chiropractic

Many people live a sedentary life and sit way too much. Does this sound familiar?

You get up in the morning to go to work and sit in your car while you listen to the radio. Get to work then sit at your desk. Take lunch at your desk while you browse the internet. Attend a conference call or sit in on a meeting. Hop in the car and drive to the gym for an hour workout. Then sit on the couch and chill while you catch up on your favourite show. Then you go to bed and repeat.

Studies show that we spend close to 70% of our time sitting. It may seem more relaxing to kick back with your feet up in the recliner after a long day, but it is likely why we are seeming always tired, stressed, and suffering from negative health consequences that are rooted in a sedentary lifestyle. 

As human beings we are designed to move. Historically, movement was a matter of life and death, whether escaping predators, hunting and gathering food or finding more fertile lands. Prior to advances in technology, more people had jobs that required physical labour and although cars and computers are making our lives more leisurely, sitting is now also a matter of life and death! The World Health Organization Estimates that a lack of physical exercise accounts for approximately 3.2 million deaths per year.

Let’s take a closer look at how sitting and a sedentary lifestyle negatively impacts our health.

  • 1) Heart Disease

One study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found, that the more time men spent sitting in cars and watching television, the more likely they were to have some type of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Another study published in 2022 concluded that “long-term [sedentary behavior] increases the risk of CVD in healthy adults, whereas [physical activity] reduces the risk of CVD and improves indicators associated with CVD.”

  • 2) Diabetes

Movement is important for burning sugar and maintaining proper hormone balance for blood sugar control. A large study of 80,000 people found that for each hour they spent in front of the TV, it increased their risk of developing diabetes by 3.4%. Exercise is one of the best treatments for diabetes and controlling blood sugars, so think twice next time you just want to watch “Netflix and chill.”

  • 3) Decreased Circulation

Sitting to much slows blood flow to the legs, feet and ankles and can lead to swollen ankles, blood clots, swelling, pain, tingling and numbness. At the extreme, it can lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis and if dislodged can send blood clots to the lungs which can be fatal.

Less sitting and more exercise increases blood flow to your arms and legs as well as your brain. Studies show that exercise increases cerebral and vascular blood flow and function, which may also explain why you can think more clearly when you move your body. This may also be another factor in reducing dementia in older adults.

  • 4) Loss of Muscle and Bone strength

If you don’t use it, you lose it. Sitting causes the muscles to atrophy (waste away) and leads to increased fatty infiltration in the muscles. This is why people who sit often suffer with back pain because their body is not strong enough to hold itself up. As well the bones are not being stimulated through weight bearing exercise to maintain density and strength, so we often see low bone density and osteoporosis creeping in as we age.

  • 5) Increased Cancer Risk

A review in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute analyzed 43 studies, totaling about 4 million people, that dealt with people’s sitting behavior and their incidences of cancer.

Researchers found that if adjusting for physical activity, it didn’t change the link between a sedentary lifestyle and cancer. This means that we spend so much time not moving, that even 30 minutes at the gym is not enough to counteract all those hours at our desks.

Another link to sedentary behaviour and cancer was from a meta-analysis and showed “the results from this meta‐analysis suggest that sedentary behavior within the occupational domain was associated with a 15.5% increased risk of breast cancer. It is essential to reduce the sedentary time spent at work and to secure time for leisure‐time physical activity among sedentary workers as a primary preventive measure.”

Are you standing yet!?

The great news is that there are strategies out there to prevent the negative effects of sitting.

  • 1) Standing desk: get set up so that you can stand or sit with good posture and ergonomics, while still working. If you are standing, try to move your feet, use a step to put one foot up and then the other and shift your weight from side to side. You can also get treadmills set up with a computer on them so you can walk and type!
  • 2) Walking Meetings: get outside and walk and talk. This is a great way to get some fresh air, talk with a colleague, move your body and even lose some weight.
  • 3) Set an Alarm: use your smart phone to set an alarm every 15-30 minutes to get up, stretch and move.
  • 4) Walking breaks: At your breaks, go for a walk. If you have access at lunch, get in a workout at a local gym or get out and walk some more. This will not only increase your brain function and productivity, but it will also boost your mood and make you feel happier!

Dr Thom

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