You’re probably sitting while reading this article.
Have you ever thought about how much time a day you spend sitting at work or on your computer?
In our modern society, sedentary behavior has become a growing health concern. It is evident, now more than ever, that prolonged periods of sitting can be associated with many chronic diseases, both physical and mental.
Typical sedentary behavior includes driving (cars and trucks), using public transportation, office work, and screen time. Unless you are a wheelchair user, those long periods of sitting are considered a significant risk factor for your health.
How Much Is Too Much Sitting
Researchers compared more than 10 different studies of sitting time and activity levels and found that sitting for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity can be deadly. It has the same risk that smoking or obesity.
Sedentary Lifestyle and Its Impact on Physical Health
Even though sitting too long won’t kill you right away, it will impact your physical health negatively.
A sedentary lifestyle has a long list of adverse health effects, and it is indisputable that these health impacts intensify over time. Let’s give a closer look at them:
- Neck and Shoulders
You can easily overlook maintaining a good posture when you’re too busy working hard to meet deadlines or keep track of sales. Unfortunately, this can affect your neck and shoulders and give you a tech neck.
The most common complaints are stiff necks, headaches, neck spasms, and pain between the shoulders.
- Back and Hips
Your lower back and hips can suffer more than you think. A pinched or damaged nerve can cause sharp hip pain when sitting too long.
Always remember to move a bit during the day.
- Glutes Muscle
A doctor may refer to this pain as gluteal amnesia or lower cross syndrome. These muscles are essential for walking and stabilizing you, so if they get weakened and tight, it will create an imbalance.
Take a short walk to keep them active all the time.
- Your Eyes
Most people never consider that our eyes suffer when we spend long periods before a screen.
Digital Eye Strain is an actual condition, defined as the physical eye discomfort you can get after two or more hours in front of screens.
- Gain Weight
Even if you’re eating healthy, a long sitting hour day can make you gain weight.
It’s simple math. You will not burn too many calories if you’re sitting all day as opposed to moving around in a more active life.
Many researchers believe you need 60-75 minutes of intense physical activity to combat the physical dangers of prolonged sitting.
Prolonged Sitting and Its Link to Chronic Diseases
Many chronicle diseases are related to long sitting hours. Let’s review some of them:
You can increase the risk of getting diabetes because sitting down for too long produces changes in the metabolism, including insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
Also known as DVT, sitting for long periods without getting up to move can lead to deep vein thrombosis by forming a blood clot in a deep vein.
Musicians, and people working on airplanes, are often now aware that DVT can result from prolonged sitting hours, and they try to prevent it during their daily activities.
- Varicose Veins
Usually caused by weak vein walls and valves, this happens when the walls of the vein become stretched and lose their elasticity, causing the valves to weaken.
Along with the major discomfort, remaining seated for too many hours can lead to the development of unwanted swelling in the rectum.
Although many people believe that sedentary behavior is not a risk factor, experts suggest that a sedentary lifestyle seems to coincide with hemorrhoids development.
There are other factors involved, like maintaining lousy eating habits and dehydration.
A sedentary lifestyle is always associated with elevating the risk of getting cancer, meaning that moving is a matter of life and death.
With only 30 minutes of moderate physical daily activity, you can help lower that risk.
Mental Health Implications of Sitting Too Much
The relationship between poor mental health and sitting too much is attributed to what you are not doing when spending too much time seated, which is participating in physical activity.
You may experience fatigue, headaches, irritability, and stress. Also, depending on your activity while sitting, too much screen time may increase the risk of depression and anxiety.
Sitting in one position for long periods can sap your energy because your body interprets that stillness as the time to sleep.
If you’re staring at a screen, you tend to blink less frequently, leading to dry eyes and tiredness.
Also, the increased fatigue caused by uninterrupted sitting corresponds with a lower heart rate.
- Depression and Anxiety
We may not completely understand how depression and anxiety are related to long periods of sitting. Still, we know that missing the positive effects of physical activities can largely influence the development of symptoms.
Human beings need social interaction and outdoor activities to feel balance.Most studies suggest that the risk of being depressed and anxious is higher in people that sit more.
- Decreased Motivation
Low motivation can be a common symptom of anxiety, depression, and many other mental issues. Unfortunately, it can also lower your productivity and decline the quality of your work.
Although this is not directly related to prolonged sitting, many procrastinators do spend a lot of time sitting, feeling unmotivated after spending too much on unproductive activities.
Tips for Breaking up Prolonged Sitting and Adopting a More Active Lifestyle
It is not all bad news. We can do many things to lower the harmful effects of sitting too long. Here’s a list of what to do:
- Do Not Attempt Sudden Changes at Once
If you’re used to a sedentary lifestyle, you may want to start by making small changes first. Trying to hit the gym for two hours a day during the first week is not suitable for your health either.
Take small steps (literally) into a more active way of life by taking short walks and slowly increasing your physical demands.
- Use the 20-8-2 Rule
This is a simple method many people use to stay more active while working on a computer for long periods.
It goes like this:
In a 30-minute cycle, stay 20 minutes sitting, stand for eight minutes, and walk for at least two minutes. It’s effortless.
Of course, this will probably not apply to everyone, but it is a good way of staying active throughout the day.
- Try Some Apps
If spending too much time on technology is causing you trouble, then use technology to your advantage.
There are many apps you can try to remind yourself to stay moving. Set them up, customize them to your needs or working time, and forget about them.
Available for Mac and PC, Android, or App Store, you can easily find the one that suits your needs and stay active.
- Good Posture Matters
If sitting for too long can lead to severe physical damage, adding a lousy posture will definitely make it worse.
How are you sitting right now? Is it a good or bad posture? Let’s see.
To adopt good posture, you need to sit with your feet flat on the floor and keep your back against your chair. Ensure your head is comfortable with your ears in line with your shoulder.
Adjust your chair high to keep your shoulders from being slumped. This will help distribute your weight evenly.
Don’t forget to adjust your keyboard and height monitor. To know how it should be, look out for the center of the monitor to be aligned with the middle of your nose.
- Minor Changes in Daily Activities
Small changes lead to great habits. Therefore, the best way to fight a sedentary lifestyle is by applying small changes throughout your day. Such as:
- Stand on the train or bus: Whether for long or short rides, avoid sitting there too.
- Take the stairs and walk up the escalators: It might seem minor, but taking the stairs significantly reduces the health risk of sedentarism.
- Try a standing desk: Of course, everyone will prefer a standing desk, but if you have a low budget and can’t afford it, you can improvise with a high table or counter.
- Stand or walk around while on the phone: Do not sit in your free time, but look around. Walking on the street while using your cell phone is not a good idea.
- Take a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break.
- Try walking meetings instead of just sitting in a conference room if the session is with just one or two people.
Even if you have to continue sitting for many hours due to the nature of your work, you can still manage to lower and prevent its destructive effects.
Remember to take small steps to build better habits and improve your quality of life.
Are you still sitting?