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The Very Real Danger of Sitting and What You Can Do About It

Our modern world is full of so many conveniences. We can now order just about anything we want online and get it delivered to our doors within a matter of days. We can hit the drive-thru on the way home if we’re worn out from a tough day at work. And after working for 8 hours at a computer, we unwind and relax in front of the television until bedtime. While our modern lives are easier in some ways, they definitely pose multiple health risks, especially when we’re sedentary – which is now the norm in our society. This increase in sitting, however, is harming our health profoundly and putting us at a higher risk of developing numerous health problems. Read below about the dangers of prolonged sitting – and what you can do to reverse it and live a healthy life:

What’s So Dangerous About Sitting?

You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking, and for good reason. Prolonged periods of sitting have been tied to at least 35 serious health conditions, including premature death, as if you’re smoking a pack of cigarettes each day. Here are some of the most serious health risks you’re posing to yourself if you lead a sedentary life:

  • Anxiety and depression: Did you know that the more you sit, the higher your risk for mood disorders like anxiety and depression is? Conversely, research has also shown that the more people take time to move throughout the day, the happier they become.
  • Blood clot formation: If you’re sedentary, you can wind up developing varicose veins or even deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a serious condition that usually develops after a long plane or car trip and causes life-threatening blood clots to form.
  • Cancer: Your risk for developing cancer, especially colon, lung, and uterine cancer, increases the more you remain sedentary. While the connection isn’t fully understood yet, we know that movement decreases inflammation and weight gain, factors that can contribute to cancer.
  • Diabetes: Your body’s ability to transport glucose out of your blood and into your cells decreases when you lead a sedentary life, which can ultimately lead to developing type-2 diabetes.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Prolonged periods of sitting can cause your abdomen to compress and your digestive tract to slow down. This can lead to not only bloating and constipation but also larger health issues like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and diverticulosis.
  • Heart disease: Being sedentary doesn’t just increase your blood pressure – it also decreases the diameter of your arteries, both of which make developing heart disease a greater possibility. Some studies have shown that those who are inactive for extended periods of time have a 147% higher risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke than those who are more active.
  • Increased or chronic pain: Spending hours sitting at the computer, in front of the TV, or on the couch reading a book can cause your body a lot of pain, even if you’re fairly active. Inactivity is linked to overly tightened hip flexors and hamstrings, stressed and stiff joints, and even pelvic floor dysfunction.
  • Obesity: A sedentary lifestyle increases your waistline while decreasing the activity of lipoprotein lipase (LPL), a helpful enzyme that helps your body burn fat. Put this together and you have a higher chance of becoming overweight or obese.
  • Osteoporosis: When your body remains at rest for too long, it replaces less and less of what it loses, like the necessary minerals for developing and maintaining strong bones. This can easily lead to a greater risk of bone fracture and developing osteoporosis, especially as you age.
  • Skeletal pain and issues: From a stiff neck and shoulders to back pain and posture issues, prolonged sitting can harm your skeleton, leading to various issues including spinal disc compression, chronic back pain, forward head syndrome, and more.

Why Exercise Alone Isn’t Enough

If you make time for a moderate or vigorous 30-minute workout a few times a week, you might consider yourself physically active and safe from the effects of sitting. Unfortunately, exercise alone isn’t enough. While working out can absolutely help to improve your health, studies have found that you actually need to do more to offset the time you spend sitting. That means you could still be at risk for disease and premature death if you sit for long periods throughout the day, even if you meet the recommended guidelines for exercise. This should serve as a wakeup call not only for true couch potatoes, but also for office workers, those who commute long distances by car, and anyone who spends a handful of hours watching television each night.

Want to Be Well? Move Your Body More

Your body was made to move, plain and simple. So the obvious answer here is that you need to make more time to get up and move around more often throughout the day. If you have an office job, work in front of a computer, or have a long commute, don’t quit your job – there are plenty of ways you can easily incorporate more movement in your day! Here are some of our favorite ideas:

  • Take frequent breaks. This means getting up at least once every hour for a few minutes to stand up, stretch, walk around, or even do a plank.
  • Try a standing desk. Many employers are now seeing the benefits of having standing desks in their offices. If your job allows this, take them up on their offer! This is such an easy way to get you up and moving throughout the day.
  • Make your commute more active. If you’re able, choose to walk or bike to work. Have a long commute? Break it up a bit by driving only part of the way and biking or walking the rest.
  • Sit more actively. Just because you need to sit to do your job doesn’t mean you need to be completely stationary! Switch out your standard chair for a yoga ball, which can help your posture and allow you to move a little more. Even fidgeting or tapping your feet softly to music counts!
  • Get out and exercise. Of course, it’s essential to make time for consistent exercising. Lace up and hit the pavement, swim some laps, or dance to your favorite tunes to get your heart and lungs pumping!
  • Don’t let bad weather stop you. There are plenty of healthy exercises and activities you can do indoors, no matter what the weather! Do Pilates, practice yoga or your favorite martial arts, run up and down the stairs, or do lunges and squats. You officially have no more excuses!
  • Say no to the elevator. Whenever possible, choose the stairs over the elevator or escalator!
  • Park far away from your destination. Getting groceries or running errands? Park your car in the far end of the lot to help you get more steps in your day.
  • Take your phone calls standing up. Instead of sitting down to talk to your friends and family, pace around your home or take the call on a walk!
  • Get up between episodes of your favorite show. Since more and more people stream their shows, there tend to be fewer commercial breaks. Instead of letting your show automatically play to the next episode, take a break and walk around for a bit!
  • Tackle those chores. We know – no one likes doing the chores, but it’s good for your health on so many levels! Limit your TV time and do the dishes, break out the vacuum, walk the dog, and pull weeds from your garden.
  • Play video games standing up. Better yet, try playing more activity-based video games more often. Ring Fit Adventure, Just Dance, Rock Band, and Dance Dance Revolution are all great choices!

It’s never too late to turn your life around, become more active, and get your health back – and The Wellness Connection can help you along the way! Rely on our caring and knowledgeable doctors to help optimize your health and help you live the rich life you deserve. Call us today at (636) 978-0970 to learn more, or schedule a virtual visit with us!

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