Exercise is essential to a healthy existence but many of us are either chained to our desks for a large majority of the day. As a result, we may be experiencing some dangers of being sedentary. Our bodies will begin to suffer from numerous health effects of sitting too long which can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Our bodies are meant to move on a regular basis to remain functioning optimally. We may think that taking a day to just sit and relax is a good thing but the reality is we are hurting ourselves. Let’s investigate the health effects of sitting too long and perhaps evaluate our current habits.
#1. Fluid in the Legs
When we are not moving, it also means that the blood is not moving very much either. If we are sitting for the majority of the day, blood can tend to pool in our legs. We may begin to feel a tingling sensation or perhaps even numbness. Painful varicose veins may also be a result.
As soon as we sit down, electrical activity in the muscles in our legs turns off. Simple walking and/or stretching can help to alleviate these issues and get the blood flowing once again.
#2. Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
Some of the major dangers of being sedentary are cardiovascular diseases like heart failure, angina, and coronary artery disease. Our heart is a muscle and like every other muscle, it needs exercise to remain strong. Often once damage occurs, that damage cannot be reversed so be sure to take care of your heart NOW.
#3. Sleep Apnea
The fluid that settles in the legs during the day eventually will move to the neck during the night when you are lying down. This can contribute to sleep apnea characterized by loud snoring and restless sleep. There are many additional health risks to not getting enough rest, including high blood pressure and diabetes.
#4. Stomach Issues
Sitting for too long obviously means you are not getting the physical exercise you need and thus, you are not burning excess calories. Consequently, you begin to gain weight and have the potential to become obese. Obesity can lead to other health issues including heart disease and diabetes.
When you remain sitting for an extended period, your intestinal tract becomes compressed and digestion is slowed. You may then experience bloating, cramping, gas, or heartburn.
#5. Reduced Lung Capacity
Our lungs require a certain amount of exercise to work efficiently and over a period of time without such exercise, the lungs begin to have a reduced capacity. They have a more difficult time taking in air and the slightest bit of exercise when there is usually none becomes daunting and sometimes almost impossible.
If you are a person with heart disease, one of the first places that fluid will back up in the lungs. This makes it extremely difficult to breathe and even mildly exercise.
#6. Blood Clots in the Brain
As mentioned previously, blood clots can begin to form in your body if you are not moving on a regular basis. Eventually, those blood clots may become dislodged and travel to your brain, causing a stroke or possibly even death.
#7. Weakened Legs
Sitting in the same position day after day leads to a weakening in the muscles of your legs. Your thigh muscles are some of the strongest muscles in your body and provide you with the ability to move around easily as well as help to support your body. This may not seem like one of the dangers of being sedentary but it needs to be taken seriously.
Once atrophy sets in, you will find it very difficult to even climb a flight of stairs, but also you are putting yourself at risk of further injury. If your leg muscles are weak, you may fall more easily or unable to sustain periods of physical activity.
#8. An Increase in Depression and Anxiety
Studies have shown that people who sit for most of their day display more symptoms of anxiety and depression than those who get up and move. Exercise releases hormones such as dopamine and serotonin that not only can improve our mood but also help us to regulate our emotions.
#9. General Fatigue
You would think that sitting all day would leave you refreshed and alert. However, the direct opposite happens to be true. You are left feeling sluggish and lazy, even unmotivated. When we make sitting around a habit, we are not exercising our bodies but we are also not stimulating our minds. Finding ways to focus becomes difficult and thus we become even less productive.
Very few people who are forced to sit at a desk all day sit properly. And those who sit on their couch all day definitely are not sitting properly either. Consequently, there is a strain on the neck and spine, especially if you are hunched over your computer. The muscles become tense and this may result in progressive headaches or even be a cause of your migraines.
Be sure to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your backside to the back of an ergonomically correct chair if you must sit for long periods of time. So what can you do to avoid some of these health effects of sitting too long?
- Get up and move – Sounds simple enough, right? The trick is to do it on a regular and frequent basis throughout the course of the day. Go for an actual walk and if you can do it outside, that is even better. Get a bit of exposure to the sun and increase your vitamin D levels. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or it can be something as simple as physically walking to a coworker’s workspace instead of just messaging them.
- Stretch – Tight muscles and ligaments restrict our movement and can lead to further health issues and injuries. Don’t just roll your shoulders or tilt your neck to one side. Take the time to properly stretch out your neck, shoulders, hands, hips, and calf muscles. Yoga is an excellent way to not only stretch out your body but also to help you center yourself.
Be cognizant of the number of hours you are sitting every day and make the decision to change that habit. Whether you are sitting at a desk all day or choosing to be a couch potato, get moving! It is really not worth any of the dangers of being sedentary.