Hazards of Prolonged Sitting & Prevention Tips (Must Read)

If you find yourself sitting down for a long period of time either working or doing other things, you are standing a risk of health hazards, and will find this article highly helpful.

The human body is designed to move regularly. There are joints at every intersection, which ensures movements of all kinds. For instance, the joint between the shoulder and the arm ensures that we can move our hands up and down and even sway it side to side, same as the legs too. Being inactive for longer periods of time by sitting could be harmful to the health. In as much as the effect won’t be immediate it definitely would tell.
Many adults spend more than six hours of their day sitting on lying down and as they grow in age, the number of hours increases as well. Whether you are sitting in front of a TV or behind a desk, experts are warning that sitting for long can pose a lot of danger to not just your physical health but also your mental health. The effect could be either short or long termed. Even if you exercise on a regular basis, exercise alone may not be enough to counter the effects of prolonged sitting.
In recent studies, researchers have linked sitting for long period of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels, cancer and increase in cardiovascular diseases, organ damage, muscle degeneration and may even lead to death.
According to a study conducted by the University of Sydney, adults who spent less than two hours in front of the TV or other screen based entertainment with those who logged more than four hours a day of recreational screen time were compare and the result showed that there was a 50 per cent increased risk of death from any cause and also a one 25 per cent increased risk events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain or heart attack. This increased risk is not associated with the traditional risk factors such as smoking or high blood pressure.
In another study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, researches conducted a systematic review and meta analysis of published research to quantitatively evaluate the association between adults sedentary time and health outcomes independent of physical activity. Evidence showed that prolonged sitting is independently associated with negative health outcomes and mentality. However, its effect was most visible among those who never exercised or who exercised once in a while. The researchers posted that more than half of the average waking person’s life involves sedentary activities such as watching television, working at a computer or commuting, so sitting would be a health concern as the body is at rest.
Jason Matuszak, M, D. of Buffalo, N.Y, a sports medicine specialist, said “everyone should reduce the time they spend sitting.” He went on to say, “people who do not exercise can be healthier even if all they do is reducing the amount of time they sit. People who do exercise can be healthier by decreasing the time they spend sitting too. What we are talking about is a change in the fundamental way that we do things by reducing sedentary time. We have known an active lifestyle is better for a long time.”
Prolonged sitting poses a great danger to body’s general well-being by affecting it physically and mentally in extreme cases it may result to death. Sitting for long can slow down your metabolism, thereby causing you to gain weight. Sitting suppresses snap enzyme known as lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme responsible for removing fat from the blood and transferring it to your muscles to be used during periods of activity. When you spend most of your time sitting, the release of this enzyme is lessened and this means that the fat is removed from your blood and absorbed from your muscles.
It also causes your muscles to degenerate. When you stand or even move your abdominal muscles keep you upright but when you are sitting, these muscles are left unused and becomes tight they can exaggerate the spine’s natural arch which can result to a condition know as sway back or hyperlordosis.
A Penn State study found that sitting for more than four hours can cause compression of certain disks in the lower sack over time, this pressure may also lead to disk degeneration, which is one of the most common cause of lower back and neck pain.
Your legs are not safe if you sit for long, sitting for long period of time slows down blood circulation which causes fluid to pool in the legs. This is a short term effect. Most travellers can attest to this, especially those who travel by road, the ankles can get swollen too. Sitting all day makes the legs weak and form glutes, by sitting all day you are depending on the lower body muscles to hold you up.
This leads to muscle atrophy, muscle atrophy simply refers to the weakening of the muscles. Without glute muscles and strong legs the body is at a risk of injury. Aside from this, prolonged sitting can cause one to develop varicose veins otherwise known as spider veins. Even though they’re not harmful, these swollen veins can be unpleasant to the eyes. In this part of the world, it is often attributed to failed attempt at bleaching of the skin. In rare cases, they could lead to a more serious condition like blood clots also known as deep vein thrombosis.
Another way prolonged sitting can affect you is by causing you to develop tight hips. Flexible hips help keep you balanced but chronic sitters so rarely extend their hip flexor muscles in front so they become short and tight limiting the range of motion and stride length. Sitting for long can not only affect your hips but can cause your back to go bad. Studies have shown that your hips flexors starts to shorten and your seated position can cause your back to hurt, back pain caused by wrong sitting position is actually common as most people don’t know how to sit properly. Furthermore poor posture while sitting can compromise on the discs in your spine and can lead to premature degeneration which can result to chronic pains.
An expert who wished to remain anonymous explained that decreased hip mobility is a main reason elderly people tend to fall. Another study posits that less stimulating of the hip is, perhaps, one of the reasons elderly people have soft bones. Weight bearing activities such as walking and running stimulates the hip and lower body bones to grow thicker, denser and stronger. Scientist partially attributes the recent rise in the case of weak bones to lack of activity.
As in the case of the hips and legs, prolonged sitting can cause the shoulders and neck to be stiff. Moving the body by walking, stretching and also twisting the neck to the side occasionally can remind this short term effect.
In a study conducted by the University of Sydney too much sitting can shorten one’s life. Adults who sat 10 or more hours per day had a 40 per cent increase risk of dying in the next three years compared with those who sit less than four hours of a day. The study also found that women who sat for more hours daily were 37 per cent more likely to die over a 13-year period compared with those who sat for three hours or less daily. For men the risk of dying increased 17 per cent over the same period for those who sat at least six hours a day.
Sitting for long may affect your brain too when we move our muscles our heart pumps fresh blood and oxygen to the brain which triggers the release of brain and mood enhancing chemicals. Your brain will actually slow when you are sedentary for long periods of time. In a report published by Harvard University blog post, excessive sitting has even been associated with an increased risk of dementia.
Aside from the physical effects of sitting, sitting for long has been said to have some mental effects as well. Anxiety and depression have been found to be common among people who sit for long. The reason for this is unknown but researchers say that this is probably because of the mental benefit of fitness are lacking when one spends their time sitting than moving around.
Sitting for long also increases the risk of having cancer. As in the case of affecting the mental health, the reason for the increase is unknown and isn’t clear but one theory is that excess insulin encourages cell growth another is that regular movement boosts natural antioxidants that kill cell damaging potentially cancer free radicals. Emerging studies suggest that prolonged sitting can increase the risk of certain types of cancer including lung, uterine and colon cancers.
Watch out for your heart as prolonged sitting can harm your heart potentially leading to cardiovascular disease. Experts say people who sit have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke and also battling with high blood pressure. Prolonged sitting also increases insulin resistance; this is a precursor to diabetes. People who spend more time sitting have a 112 per cent increase risk of diabetes.

Prevention tips
Take movement breaks, decrease the amount of time you spend sitting. You can decide to sit for five hours a day and gradually take it down some more. One should endeavour to sit less and stand more. In general move whenever you have the chance to. Standing whenever you have the opportunity rather than sitting. For example, standing while talking on the phone or eating lunch, walking laps with colleagues rather than gathering in conference room for meetings, also, standing by the desk if you think you have been sitting for so long.
The impact of exercising can be profound aside from burning calories you will experience increased energy and it might lead to weight loss. Keep exercising regardless of how you spend the rest of the day. The more time spent exercising means the less time spent being inactive. When you exercise the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and glucose within the body. When you sit these processes stall this increases ones health risk, when you are standing or actively moving you are kicking the processes back into action.
In addition to the movement breaks, when sitting endeavour to stretch at least every hour. Gentle stretches for the back and neck will help to alleviate softness and stiffness and improve blood flow throughout the body. You can start by raising your arms over your head while standing on your toes to open the back and relax the muscles. If you watch TV while seated take a walking break when the commercials come on; take a stretch. Taking a few deep breathes while stretching can do your brain a whole of good as this boost the amount of oxygen the brain receives.
David Alter, senior scientists at Toronto rehabilitation institute university health network and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Science also recommends that some things can be done to reduce sedentary time. ‘Taking zone-two three minute break about every half hour during the day to stand (which burns twice as many calories as sitting) or move around and standing or exercising while watching television,” he said.
He also advised his patients to set achievable goals and scale up slowly. For instance, a patient could start by reducing sitting by 15 to 20 minutes a day and then set weekly goals to improve from there. Eventually, the patient should aim to two or three hours of sedentary time. To reduce the chances of developing heart conditions, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise in at least 10 minute periods.
According to Matuszak, “moderate intensity is exercising with purpose. This should be breaking a sweat and breathing hard.
“Walking groups can help sedentary patients increase their physical activity such as bowling, darts, will games, shuffleboard, leisurely swimming or shooting baskets, none of which require more exertion than being seated but may mitigate some of the risk.
“The tricks to find something that sparks on interest with a particular individual explore that interest and see if we might find a fit.”
Keep exercising regardless of how you spend the rest of the day. The more time spent exercising means the less time being inactive and that’s invariably more life for you.
Source: Daily Sun