You’ve likely read this headline before: “Sitting is Worse Than Smoking For Your Health!”
You probably thought “Yikes …” and then wondered if it were really true, or just an exaggeration.
Unfortunately, this is a headline that deserves some merit. Sitting for prolonged periods is very bad, to put it simply. To illustrate: one study found that for every hour that people spend sitting and watching TV, 22 minutes are cut from their life span!
Not to mention, the World Health Organization has identified inactivity as the 4th leading cause of death around the world. And, recent research shows that sitting for long periods of time raises your risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, certain forms of cancer, and obesity.
Because the effects of it are, frankly, mindboggling, we wanted to break down why sitting has such a negative effect on your body, as well as things you can do to mitigate it, especially if you work a desk job.
Why Sitting For Too Long Isn’t Positively Impacting Your Health
1. Impaired Circulation
It’s likely that at some point in your life, one of your limbs has “fallen asleep” while you were sitting (cue the classic pins and needles that follows – ouch!).
And, while “standard sitting,” say, at a computer desk, often doesn’t have this type of an intense effect instantly … it causes similar effects over time.
When we are not moving for long periods of time, circulation is greatly reduced. And not just circulation of blood: all fluids, including your lymph fluid that carries waste products out of your body, as well as the fluids that lubricate your joints, tendons, and muscles, become stagnant. Your connective tissues, muscles, and skin don’t get the circulation of blood with fresh oxygen and nutrients they need to turn over new cells, as well as repair themselves from workouts.
This can lead to less nutrients available to maintain collagen levels (the stuff our joints and skin are made out of) which can set the stage for premature aging, or even injuries.
2. Disrupts Good Posture
Anyone who has ever sat at a desk knows: it’s pretty much hell on your posture.
Instead of keeping your spine in alignment from top-to-bottom, your neck is stretching forward, straining your upper and mid-back muscles, your shoulders are hunched forward, straining your lower back muscles and collapsing in on your lungs, resulting in shallower breaths.
The frontal body muscles then shorten, continuing to pull your shoulders and neck forward even when your not sitting, resulting in bad posture even while standing.
After a while, this spinal misalignment can also result in all types of pain, from low back to neck pain, to even joint pain.
3. Puts Pressure On Disks
At the end of the day, the human musculoskeletal system wasn’t designed to handle sitting for extended periods of time. When we have correct posture (aka: our spinal column is correctly aligned), the disks that sit between our vertebrae aren’t strained. However, when we are camped out at an odd angle by sitting, these disks can receive an unusual and prolonged amount of pressure … which can lead to pain.
After all, the weight of your body and gravity are essentially “sitting” on these disks, which are ultimately designed to act as shock absorbers. When you are sitting on these disks in the wrong position for too long, the disk and vertebrae become strained, leading to pain.
4. Not Good For Digestion
Studies also show that your digestion can suffer from too much sitting as well, simply due to the position. One study even found that participants didn’t digest carbohydrates fully when in a sitting position (resulting in gas and malabsorbtion) but didn’t have any issues when they digested the same meal while lying down.
There are many reasons for this, including lack of blood flow to your digestive system, as well as simply the position in general, with your legs at a 90º angle to your stomach, slowing down the “flow” of food through your system.
What To Do If You Work At A Desk
Of course, reading about how terrible sitting is for your health hits extra hard when you work a desk job, or work for hours from a laptop in general! Luckily, this is one of the core reasons we created Durable Professional (more on that below), so that you can feel empowered in your position, instead of succumbing to the effects of sitting.
Obviously, one of the first things to look in to if you’re able is a standing desk. We understand not all workplaces allow it (and they can be expensive); however, you can always create a makeshift standing desk by stacking a couple boxes or books under your computer. This may well only work if you have a laptop, so again: this applies if you’re able.
If you aren’t able to access or use a standing desk, your key will be to get up and move, even if it’s for just 5 minutes, every half hour (ideally) to an hour. Set a reminder on your phone to stand up, stretch your shoulders back, jog in places to get fresh blood pumping, stretch from side to side – just move.
Along with this, look into going for a walk on your lunch break, sitting briefly to eat if you need to! This will give you an extra 20-30 minutes of movement per day!
The Bottom Line
The fact that you work at a desk or on your laptop does not mean you’re doomed to the effects of sitting! With a few simple adjustments (an awesome one a your fingertips below) you can mitigate the effects of sitting.
Also, for specific exercises and movements you can do daily from your desk,
check out the Durable Professional on the Durable Athlete App. You get
14 days FREE to try it out … and we can’t WAIT to hear how you feel afterward!