Why Sitting Too Long is Worse Than Smoking

Credit: Pexels
Credit: Pexels

It is proven that humans need some level of activity to stay healthy. A certain level of aerobic and anaerobic activity is required for our heart to pump blood throughout the body, oxygenate tissue, and move nutrients to every cell. When the body is inactive, circulation is hindered which has a negative ripple effect on the rest of your body.

That’s why some health professionals believe stagnation to be a serious health concern, even rivaling the results of serious health risk behaviors such as smoking. According to an article published by Mayo Clinic, there is research which links sitting too long to health complications such as smoking and cardiovascular challenges.

Unfortunately there are many professions in which sitting for long periods of time is the norm. Even grade school students are required to sit still for up to eight hours a day. So while recesses are built into the schedules of young students so they can expend energy and reinvigorate their circulation, adults in the workforce are left to their own devices.

How Bad for Your Health is Staying Still?

Sitting for too long affects more areas of your body than you would think. Take for instance

your heart. During a long sit, fatty acids build up around the heart. This leads to the possibility of elevated cholesterol and other heart complications. Sitting for too long also affects your pancreas. Cells in idle muscles don’t respond as readily to insulin, causing levels in the blood to elevate, which can result in serious health complications such as ketoacidosis.

Sitting for too long also has a negative effect on muscles in your midsection, particularly your abs and hips. Tight back muscles and weak ab muscles lead to poor posture that can damage your spine. Too much sitting can tighten your hips and limit their motion and stride length. It has been researched how limited hip mobility is a factor in how frequently the elderly suffer a fall.

Sitting too long affects the legs as well. Fluid can pool in your legs, leading to swollen ankles, varicose veins, and in extreme situations blood clots. Leg bones also tend to become soft when a person sits too much. Bodies are meant for weight-bearing activities such as walking and running which stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker, denser, and stronger.

Too much sitting is of course detrimental to your back’s health. The worse your posture, the more your back muscles and discs will be at risk. Proper movement allows soft discs between vertebrae to expand and extract which soaks up fresh blood and nutrients. Sitting for too long not only limits this absorption but can disfigure your discs as well.

Incorporate Movement into Your Daily Routine

With all the sitting we are expected to do on a daily basis – eating, watching television, working – what can be done to minimize our health risks? The American Heart Association suggests, “sit less, move more.” But the question remains, how to put this into practice? While the simple answer is to “exercise more,” there may also be simple ways to moderate your daily routine on your way to preserving your health.

Before work can be a good time for a workout because it wakes your entire body up. It gives your energy levels a boost so you don’t get drowsy as quickly in the morning. But if you do choose to exercise before work, be prepared to have food on hand once your body has burned those calories – a decent breakfast or smoothie is non-negotiable.

After work is another popular time to get exercise. If a gym membership is within your means, hitting the gym on your way home from the office is a perfect way to incorporate some much-needed exercise into your routine. Or if the gym is not your thing, going for a quick run when you get home can go a long way. Not everyone knows the simple fact that even regular walking is extremely healthy as it supports circulation and overall health.

Last, there are habits everyone should adopt to counteract the negative results from too much sitting. The first is to have good posture whenever necessary. Proper posture will challenge your core in a positive way and lead to healthy circulation. Another thing to keep in mind when you are sitting at work for too long, take a brief break every thirty minutes to engage your dormant muscles. This could be combined with a trip to the restroom or the water fountain. The key here is to stay as active as possible.

How will you stay active? You may think you are safe using poor posture to sit, but painful back problems can sneak up on anyone. Make sure your body is getting the circulation it needs by adding movement to your daily routine. Exercise for thirty minutes several times a week if at all possible. The upkeep of your body is largely up to you.