Our body is designed for regular movement, but many of us spend much of the day sitting still instead. A sedentary lifestyle is defined as a type of lifestyle where an individual does not receive regular amounts of physical activity.
On average, a typical American spends nine to 10 hours each day sitting. This stillness cannot be offset with one hour of exercise; worse still, some don’t even fit in any activity, which means their bodies are virtually always in a sedentary state.
Human bodies are designed to be upright, active and on the move all day long. When you stop moving for extended periods of time, it’s like telling your body it’s time to shut down and prepare for death.
This is what happens when your body sits for extended periods of time.
- Organ Damage:
Heart: When you sit, blood flows slower and muscles burn less fat, which makes it easier for fatty acids to clog your heart. This leads to a greater risk for heart disease.
Pancreas: This organ has two main functions, to help with digestion and to regulate blood sugar. Your body’s ability to respond to both is affected by just one day of excess sitting, which leads your pancreas to produce increased amounts of insulin, and over time, this may lead to diabetes.
- Cancer: Excess sitting may increase your risk of colon, breast and endometrial cancers. The reasons are not known for certain, but two hypotheses are: excess insulin production, which encourages cell growth, or the fact that regular movement boosts antioxidants in your body that may eliminate cancer-causing free radicals.
Another reason for this increased cancer risk is thought to be linked to weight gain. Some of the physiological changes that happen in the body with obesity are alterations in hormones, metabolic dysfunction and inflammation promote cancer.
- Digestion: Sitting down after you’ve eaten causes your abdominal contents to compress, slowing down digestion. Sluggish digestion, in turn, can lead to cramping, bloating, heartburn and constipation.
- Brain Damage: Your brain function slows when your body is sedentary for too long. Just like all the cells in your body, the brain needs fresh oxygenated blood to function at its best level. When this does not happen, the trigger to release of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals is effected.
- Posture Problems
Strained Neck and Shoulders: It’s common to hold your neck and head forward while working at a computer or cradling a phone to your ear. This can lead to strains and pain in your neck and shoulders. This forward head position also affects the arms and hands.
Back Problems: Sitting puts more pressure on your spine than standing. It’s estimated that 40 percent of people with back pain have spent long hours at their computer each day. The discs in your back are meant to expand and contract as you move, which allows them to stay hydrated. Sitting compressed decreases flexibility, which may lead to herniated discs, sciatica and degeneration of the spine.
- Muscle Degeneration: Standing requires you to engage your abdominal muscles, which go unused when you sit, ultimately leading to weak core strength.
- Hip Problems: Your hips also suffer from prolonged sitting, becoming tight and limited in range of motion. In the elderly, decreased hip mobility is a leading cause of falls. Prolonged sitting does nothing for your gluteal muscles, which may become weakened, and will affect your stability, strength and balance.
- Leg Disorders: Sitting leads to poor circulation in your legs, which can cause swelling in your ankles, varicose veins and blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Weak Bones: As our body ages, we lose bone density. Sitting for long periods contributes to this loss and causes osteoporosis. Walking, running and engaging in other weight-bearing activities lead to stronger, denser bones.
Get out there and start moving. Being sedentary is not part of living life to the fullest. While a brief period of sitting here and there is natural, long periods of sitting day-in and day-out seriously impact your health and shorten your life. QCBN
By Dr. Amy Tarquinio
Dr. Amy Tarquinio is a chiropractor in Prescott, Arizona. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact her office, Aligned For Life at 928-443-7717 or visit dramyt.com. References for this article are available at our office.