Sitting for extended periods has become a norm in modern society due to the rise of sedentary jobs, prolonged screen time, and other forms of leisure activities that require sitting. However, sitting too much has been linked to various health problems that can impact your physical and mental well-being. In this article, we explore the dangers of sitting too much and offer tips on how to combat them.
The Dangers Of Sitting Too Much
Did you know that physical activity can aid in the digestion of fats and sugars in your body? When you spend prolonged periods of time sitting, your digestion becomes less efficient, causing you to retain those fats and sugars as body fat. This can lead to weight gain and a variety of health issues, including metabolic syndrome.
Even if you regularly exercise, sitting for extended periods can still pose health risks. According to recent studies, you need at least “60-75” minutes of “moderate-intensity physical activity” each day to counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting(1).
Weakness Of Leg And Gluteal Muscles
Prolonged sitting can result in the weakening and atrophy of the major gluteal and leg muscles. These muscles play a crucial role in walking and providing stability. If they become weak, the risk of injury from falls and strains during physical activity increases.
Hips and Back Problems
Your back and hip, just like your legs and glutes, may not offer enough support if you sit for extended periods. When you sit, your hip flexor muscles may become shortened, which can result in hip joint issues.
Moreover, if you have poor posture or use a chair or workstation that is not designed correctly, prolonged sitting can lead to back problems. Poor posture can also lead to spinal health issues, such as disc compression, which can cause premature degeneration and severe pain (2).
Anxiety and Depression
Although we do not yet fully understand the correlation between sitting and mental health, studies have shown that individuals who sit for prolonged periods are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression (3).
This may be due to the fact that individuals who spend a lot of time sitting miss out on the positive effects of physical activity and fitness. Getting up and moving may help alleviate these issues.
Prolonged sitting can increase your risk of developing heart disease. When you sit, your body burns fewer calories, which can cause an increase in cholesterol levels and blood pressure. These factors can lead to the buildup of plaque in your arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Sitting for extended periods can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A study found that sitting for more than six hours per day can lead to insulin resistance, a condition that can cause diabetes(4).
Prolonged sitting can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as colon, breast, and endometrial cancer. A study found that people who sit for more than six hours per day have a higher chance of developing these types of cancer than those who sit for less than three hours per day(5).
Tips to Combat the Dangers of Sitting Too Much
Take Frequent Breaks
Taking frequent breaks is an excellent way to combat the dangers of sitting too much. Try to stand up and move around for at least five minutes every hour. You can walk around the office or do some stretching exercises.
Stand While Working
Standing while working is another great way to combat the dangers of sitting too much. If your job requires you to sit for long periods, try standing for short periods. You can use a standing desk or a high table to work from a standing position.
Use a Standing Desk
A standing desk is an excellent investment if you spend long hours working at a desk. A standing desk allows you to work while standing, reducing the amount of time you spend sitting. Standing desks are available in various sizes and styles, making it easy to find one that fits your needs.
Incorporate Movement into Daily Life
Incorporating movement into your daily life is essential for combating the dangers of sitting too much. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car further away from your destination, or walk to the grocery store instead of driving. These small changes can help you move more and sit less.
- Braith RW, Pollock ML, Lowenthal DT, Graves JE, Limacher MC. Moderate-and high-intensity exercise lowers blood pressure in normotensive subjects 60 to 79 years of age. The American journal of cardiology. 1994 Jun 1;73(15):1124-8.
- Jung KS, Jung JH, In TS, Cho HY. Effects of prolonged sitting with slumped posture on trunk muscular fatigue in adolescents with and without chronic lower back pain. Medicina. 2020 Dec 23;57(1):3.
- Biddle SJ, Henson J, Davies MJ, Khunti K, Sutton S, Yates T, Edwardson CL. Device-assessed total and prolonged sitting time: associations with anxiety, depression, and health-related quality of life in adults. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2021 May 15;287:107-14.
- Taylor FC, Dunstan DW, Homer AR, Dempsey PC, Kingwell BA, Climie RE, Owen N, Cohen ND, Larsen RN, Grace M, Eikelis N. Acute effects of interrupting prolonged sitting on vascular function in type 2 diabetes. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology. 2021 Jan 1;320(1):H393-403.
- Jiang L, Sun YQ, Brumpton BM, Langhammer A, Chen Y, Nilsen TI, Mai XM. Prolonged sitting, its combination with physical inactivity and incidence of lung cancer: prospective data from the HUNT study. Frontiers in oncology. 2019 Feb 25;9:101.