Millions of us have jobs that require us to sit for extended periods during the day. And when we get home, it’s not much different. We end up sitting on the couch watching television, or on the cell phone, or working on the computer.
How Common is the Problem?
In fact, a survey of 5,900 adults, reported that in 2018, almost 26 percent of respondents sat for more than eight hours a day. Also, another 45 percent didn’t get any moderate or vigorous exercise. And, nearly 11 percent sat more than eight hours a day – being physically inactive.
Sadly, we may be totally unaware, but all this sitting is really bad.
In fact, research shows that sitting raises health concerns such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. So, what is metabolic syndrome? In fact, metabolic syndrome is a catchall term for high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, increased blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
In addition, excessive sitting weakens your core muscles. As a result, it’s hard to sit up straight. And, unless you try to sit up straight, you are more likely to slump over your desk. Therefore, to counteract these problems and keep your muscles engaged, stand up and stretch throughout the day.
Also, poor posture weakens your muscles and leads to back and neck pain. As a result, you are more prone to injuries. Furthermore, sitting too much causes you to lose muscle strength which results in a stiff back. And a stiff back may prevent you from sleeping well.
Finally, sitting too much slows down your metabolism which in turn causes you to gain weight. On the other hand, you can counteract the weight gain problem by cutting back on your diet and exercising regularly.
A 2016 study, of one million people, by the Norwegian School of Sports Science reported that one hour of moderate activity a day overcomes negative effects of sitting. They found that people who were sedentary for eight hours and had one hour of physical activity had a much lower risk than people who didn’t sit 8 hours but were not physically active. Thereby implying physical activity really does help negate the impacts of sitting.
A 2016 study by researchers from the University of Leicester, used data from England’s 2008 Health Survey. And they found that people who exercise regularly do offset the negative effects of sitting all day.
In addition, they found that those who led a sedentary lifestyle, and did not meet the exercise guidelines, had the highest risk for diabetes and heart disease. Also, those who exercised regularly while sitting for large portions of the day were able to offset the negative effects of sitting all day including high Body Mass Index and high cholesterol levels. Finally, those who did not exercise regularly but had a low sedentary lifestyle had higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Furthermore a 2014 study by researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington reported that taking a 5 minute walk every hour helped increase muscle activity and blood flow in participants sitting for 3 hours.
But finding the time for physical activity may not be an option for everyone. In which case, you can mitigate some of the bad effects by moving your legs using the under desk or sitting steppers.