People always equate relaxing with sitting. Probably most of you agree, but the problem is if you sit for most of your waking hours, you’re slowly killing yourself. At least, that’s what four experts say in a detailed infographic presented here.
About the serious health issue mentioned earlier, Bonnie Berkowitz heeded the warning. He’s a freelance writer, and he had developed a bad habit of sitting for long periods of time. Back then, most of the time, he was chained to a chair hitting keys on his keyboard. Every day, his wife would urge him to go out and go walking. She would push him to step out of his office and move around so he won’t develop some dreadful disease. He did. Today, he is thankful he listened to his wife, because more and more materials pop out from different sources covering deadly issues associated with sitting for extended hours.
We know sitting too much is bad, and most of us intuitively feel a little guilty after a long binge. But what exactly goes wrong in our bodies when we park ourselves for nearly eight hours per day, the average for a western adult? Many things, say four experts, who detailed a chain of problems from head to toe.
1. Organ Damage
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.
The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that caries glucose to the 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.
Studies have linked sitting to a greater risk for colon, breast and endometrial cancers. The reason is unclear, but one theory is that excess insulin encourages cell growth. Another is that regular movement boosts natural antioxidants that kill cell-damage – and potentially cancer causing – free radicals.
2. Muscle Degeneration
When you stand more, or even sit up straight, abdominal muscles keep you upright. But when you slump in a chair, these muscle go unused. Tight back muscles and wimpy abs form a posture-wrecking alliance that can exaggerate the spine’s natural arch, a condition called hyperlodosis, or swayback.
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 range of motion and stride length. Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is a main reason elderly people tend to fall.
Sitting requires your glutes to do absolutely nothing, and they get used to it. Soft glutes hurt your stability, your ability to push off and your ability to maintain a powerful stride.
3. Leg Disorders
Poor Circulation in the Legs
Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker, denser and stronger. Scientists partially attribute the recent surge in cases of osteoporosis to lack of activity.
4. Mortality of Sitting
People of watched the most TV in an eight and a half year study had a 61 percent greater risk of dying than those who watched less than one hour per day.
5. Trouble at the Top
Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain – and mood – enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.
If most of your 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 imbalance.
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.
6. Bad Back
Spines that don’t move become inflexible and susceptible to damage in mundane activities, such as when you reach for a coffee cup or bend to tie a shoe. When we move around, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. When we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly and lose sponginess. Collagen hardens around supporting tendons and ligaments.
People who site more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar discs. A muscle called the psoas travels through the abdominal cavity and, when it tightens, pulls the upper lumbar spine forward. Upper-body weight rests entirely on the ischeal tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine.
7. The Right Way to Sit
If you have to site often, try to do it correctly. As Mom always said, ‘Sit up straight’.
a) Sitting on something wobbly
Sitting on something wobbly such as an exercise ball or even a backless stool to force your core muscles to work. Sit up straight and keep your feet flat on the floor in front of you so they are support about a quarter of your body weight.
b) Stretching the Hip Flexors
Stretching the hip flexors for three minutes per side once a day , as shown above.
c) Walking during commercials
Walking during commercials when you are watching TV. Even a snail-like pace of 1mph would burn twice the calories of sitting, and more vigorous exercise would be even better.
d) Alternating between sitting and standing
Alternate between sitting and standing at your work station. If you cant do that, stand up every half hour or so and walk.
e) Trying yoga poses
Trying yoga poses – the cow pose and the cat – to improve extension and flexion in your back.