If you’re anything like me (and 86% of everyone else in this country), you spend most of your day sitting. You’re hunched over a computer and squinting at a screen all day, while your body cries for some movement. You’d think that allowing your body to “rest” so much would be good for it. However, taking it to such an extreme wreaks havoc. Why is sitting bad for you?
The Danger of Sitting
For starters, it kills your metabolism; but this goes beyond how many calories you burn and what you weigh. After just one hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that help burn fat declines by as much as 90%. Your good cholesterol takes a hit, and you’re at greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer.
Remaining sedentary slows down the oxygen and blood flowing through your body and to your brain, causing a number of negative side effects, like difficulty thinking and concentrating. One study reported on in The New York Times even found that for every extra hour of TV you sit and watch each day, the risk of death rises by 11%. In fact, physical inactivity has been named the fourth-leading risk factor for death. Too much sitting can actually be lethal.
But wait — there’s more. Spending too much time sitting can lead to poor posture, weak bones, and poor circulation. Other side effects include chronic back pain, overextension of the back and shoulder muscles, and disk damage. Add to that inflexibility, collagen build-up around the tendons and ligaments, and herniated lumbar disks.
No matter how much time you spend in the gym, exercising can’t undo the damage of sitting. That’s right: Even if you’re hitting the gym for heavy weightlifting, doing your workouts from home, or following along with some of the best fitness YouTubers, it can’t eliminate the harm caused by staying off your feet for prolonged periods of time. While physical activity can help decrease damage caused by too much sitting, the repercussions still outweigh the benefit of exercise.
We need no more convincing: too much sitting is not just bad for your health, but legitimately dangerous.
Take Control and Stand Up
Fortunately, there are simple ways to fix this problem — or at least make your situation better. If finding balance at work is the problem because you spend so much time sitting, you could invest (or ask your boss to invest) in a sit-stand desk. There are many kinds of sit-to-stand desks that fit a variety of budgets. You might think it sounds like a drag to work on your feet, but I can promise you that after sitting for too long, standing up while you tackle your responsibilities will feel amazing.
Another idea is to set a timer on your phone every half hour, reminding you to get up and move. Step outside for some fresh air, or do a lap around the office. Don’t forget about walking meetings, too, which let you take your business outside. Walking meetings have been found to boost creativity and energy, improve communication, and strengthen relationships between employees.
If you’re finding that getting out of your chair just isn’t an option when you’d rather be moving, try some easy yoga moves you can do while sitting. These are great for long hours at the office, cramped flights, and any other situations where you’re getting antsy.
We live in a culture of convenience, where so much of what we need is right at our fingertips. We can buy groceries, pick out a new outfit, and control the electronics in our homes without moving a muscle. While it might make life easier, don’t forget the downfall. Get up and move every now and then — humans weren’t meant to sit all day!