Sitting is a common posture that most people adopt for various activities, such as working, studying, driving, or watching TV. However, sitting for too long and too often can have negative effects on your health and well-being. In this article, we will explore how sitting can make you sick or worse, and what you can do to prevent or reduce these risks.
How Sitting Affects Your Body
When you sit, you use less energy than when you stand or move. This means that you burn fewer calories and your metabolism slows down. Sitting also affects your blood circulation, muscle activity, and hormone levels. These changes can lead to several health problems, such as:
- Weight gain and obesity. Sitting reduces the amount of calories you burn and the release of molecules that help process fats and sugars. This can lead to weight gain and obesity, especially around the waist. Obesity is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
- Cardiovascular disease. Sitting increases the pressure on your blood vessels and reduces the blood flow to your legs. This can cause blood clots, varicose veins, and swelling. Sitting also raises your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can damage your arteries and heart. Studies have shown that people who sit for more than eight hours a day have a 147% higher risk of heart disease than those who sit for less than four hours.
- Diabetes. Sitting impairs your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels and respond to insulin. This can cause insulin resistance, a condition where your cells do not use glucose properly. Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes, a disease where your blood sugar levels are too high. People who sit for more than eight hours a day have a 112% higher risk of diabetes than those who sit for less than four hours.
- Cancer. Sitting may affect your hormone levels, inflammation, and immune system, which can influence the growth and spread of cancer cells. Some studies have suggested that sitting for long periods of time can increase your risk of certain types of cancer, such as lung, colon, endometrial, and breast cancer.
- Musculoskeletal disorders. Sitting can cause your muscles to weaken and shorten, especially in your legs, glutes, and back. This can affect your posture, balance, and mobility. Sitting can also put stress on your spine, discs, and joints, which can cause pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Sitting can also contribute to conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and sciatica .
How Sitting Affects Your Mind
Sitting not only affects your body, but also your mind. Sitting can have negative impacts on your mental health, such as:
- Anxiety and depression. Sitting can reduce your physical activity, social interaction, and exposure to natural light. These factors can affect your mood, self-esteem, and happiness. Sitting can also increase your stress levels, which can trigger or worsen anxiety and depression. Studies have found that people who sit the most have a higher risk of both anxiety and depression than those who sit the least.
- Cognitive decline and dementia. Sitting can impair your blood flow to your brain, which can affect your cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and learning. Sitting can also increase your risk of vascular dementia, a type of dementia caused by reduced blood supply to the brain. Studies have shown that people who are more sedentary have a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia than those who are more active.
How to reduce the risks of sitting
The good news is that you can reduce the risks of sitting by making some simple changes to your lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you sit less and move more:
- Take frequent breaks. The most important thing you can do is to interrupt your sitting time as often as possible. Aim to take a break from sitting every 30 minutes, and move around for at least a few minutes. You can use a timer, an app, or a wearable device to remind you to stand up and stretch.
- Stand or walk while you work. If possible, try to use a standing desk, a high table, or a counter to do some of your work. You can also walk while you talk on the phone, have a meeting, or brainstorm an idea. If you have to sit, make sure you use an ergonomic chair and adjust your posture and position frequently.
- Be active during your leisure time. Instead of sitting on the couch and watching TV, try to do some physical activity that you enjoy, such as gardening, dancing, or playing with your kids. You can also use commercial breaks or streaming pauses to get up and do some exercises, such as squats, lunges, or push-ups.
- Exercise regularly. In addition to breaking up your sitting time, you should also aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, as recommended by the World Health Organization. You can choose any type of exercise that suits your preferences, abilities, and goals, such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or lifting weights.
- Seek social support and professional help. If you find it hard to sit less and move more, you can seek support from your family, friends, coworkers, or online communities. They can motivate you, encourage you, and join you in your activities. You can also consult a health professional, such as a doctor, a physiotherapist, or a personal trainer, for advice, guidance, and treatment.
Sitting for too long and too often can make you sick or worse, by increasing your risk of various physical and mental health problems. However, you can prevent or reduce these risks by sitting less and moving more. By making some simple changes to your daily habits, you can improve your health and well-being, and enjoy a longer and happier life.