If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you might be interested to know what can happen to your body from sitting all day. The answer isn’t pretty. As it turns out, sitting for extended periods of time may put you at an increased risk for a lot of different health issues. A lack of physical activity may not only negatively impact your health, but also your mental well-being.
Thankfully, there are a lot of things you can do in order to help offset some of the potential health problems caused by sitting for long periods. Here’s a look at some of the specific problems that may result from sitting too long and some possible ways to lower your risk.
How Long Do People Typically Sit Each Day? The Answer Might Surprise You
Researchers have provided estimates on just how long people tend to sit each day – and the numbers are amazing. For example, the average adult spends as much as 65 percent of his or her typical day sitting. That’s between nine and 10 hours sitting every day.1,2
Potential Health Risks From Sitting Too Long And Too Much
Many people are used to sitting for several hours a day. It could be due to sitting in a car going to and from work. It could be sitting at a desk for your job, or relaxing on the couch watching television or reading all night.
When you do this, though, there are certain physical changes that occur within your body – and they’re not good.
According to one study, sitting for a long period of time reduces the blood flow to your legs. That increases the risk for the formation of blood clots in the legs. In some instances, a clot can get into the lungs and potentially be fatal.3
Thankfully, there are several ways you can get your legs moving and increase your blood flow. You’ll learn more about this in a bit.
As if a lack of blood flow wasn’t bad enough, sitting all day could also lead to stomach trouble. When you sit for extended periods, your abdominal muscles compress. It does the same thing to organs in your gastrointestinal tract. Sitting too long is a major risk factor for problems such as bloating, cramps, and gas.4
Do you ever feel that you’re not quite as sharp as usual after sitting for a long time? There could be a good reason. One study showed that extended sitting might make it more difficult for your brain to process information. This could make it more challenging for you to organize your thoughts if you’re working a desk job.5
Sitting too long can affect your health in other ways as well – namely your posture. It’s important to have good posture in order to keep your bones and muscles as strong as possible. Staying in a seated position for too long can do a number on postural muscles such as your neck, shoulders, back, and others.6
As far as your shoulders are concerned, when you sit too long, that puts them under a lot of strain – and you might not even realize what’s happening. When most people sit, they tend to bend their back forward, with their shoulders slumped. Staying in this position can, over time, lead to severe pain in the shoulders and neck.7
At some point, you may have noticed some back discomfort after sitting down for a few hours. One of the reasons why this happens is that sitting too long weakens the muscles near the lower portion of the back. This can lead to major discomfort.8
Researchers conducting a study found that the longer you sit, the worse your back discomfort may get.9
Tips To Avoid These Health Problems: Get More Physical Activity And Exercise When Away From Your Desk
Physical activity in the form of vigorous exercise is always important. It’s even more important for those who live a sedentary lifestyle. And don’t worry if you haven’t been exercising. It’s never too late to get started. Here are a few ideas to help you get the physical activity you need.
One thing you might want to consider is getting up from your desk and walking around outside for a few minutes every hour.10 That will help you stretch your legs and hips, and increase blood flow. There’s definitely nothing wrong with getting a little fresh air. If you have to take an important call, maybe you can do it while taking a walk instead of taking it at the desk. If you take a lunch hour, try spending some of that time strolling around outside the office.
If you love watching television, there’s no reason why you have to do it sitting down. Try folding your laundry during your favorite show while standing. Stand up and do a stretching exercise. Instead of fast-forwarding through commercials, use that time to walk around your home a little bit.11
Other ways you can sneak in some steps include:
- Parking farther away (so you’ll have to walk a bit more).
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you can.
- Walking your dog (or a friend or neighbor’s pup) before or after work.
- Bringing in your groceries one bag at a time.
Make A Commitment To Staying Active
For a lot of people, sitting down for long periods of time is a necessity in order to be able to work. However, there are options that can keep you from becoming chained to your chair during your workday. You could, for example, try using a standing desk. You can still be productive without having to remain in a seated position. You just have to get a little creative – and get moving.
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