Effects of Sitting All Day
Because of jobs where we spend around eight hours sitting at a desk and Netflix at our fingertips through just about any device, we are becoming more and more sedentary. Most people know that sitting all day is detrimental to our health, but what is it really doing to our bodies, and how can we counteract the negative effects?
Less than 200 years ago, as a society, we walked for 90% of the day, now we become a society that sits for 60% of the day1. This change has had a profound and negative effect on our health, with studies showing that just one additional hour of sitting per day increases our risk of early death by 11 percent2. While exercise is an extremely important part of a healthy lifestyle, even exercising for the recommended 30 minutes per day does not counteract the negative effects of sitting all day. The average American sits for over 9 hours per day, which can be a leading risk factor for many diseases3. Sitting for prolonged periods causes the breaking down of sugars and fats to stop, causing high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, weak muscles, and even some types of cancer. The World Health Organization has identified our sedentary lifestyles as the 4th leading risk factor of death for the world’s human population4, making sitting the “smoking of our generation”.
What exactly can you do to counteract some of the effects of sitting all day? Many studies have found that walking around for just 1-5 minutes every 30-60 minutes can reduce some of these negative effects and the risk of premature death by 33 percent5. If it is possible at your workplace, a standing or treadmill desk is another great option. Many experts also suggest taking some of your daily meetings while walking, either phone meetings or in-person meetings. One study found that getting just 16 more minutes of physical activity per day is enough to reverse some of the harm5.
While inactivity is detrimental for our bodies, poor posture also causes a host of problems. Many people who sit at desks tend to slouch over to get closer to their computer screen without even noticing. Sitting in a curved, slouching position puts pressure on the cartilage disks in your backbone, wearing on those disks, which can lead to back pain and discomfort. Slouched posture also limits the amount of space your lungs have to expand, meaning you are getting less oxygen. Less oxygen contributes to lowered concentration, leading to a lack of focus on your work.
Our bodies are made to move. With the hundreds of joints and the processes that require our blood to be flowing, a sedentary lifestyle is not a suitable solution for the human body. Taking a few more steps during the day can drastically help negate the effects that sitting all day has on your body. Set a reminder on your phone to get up every 30-60 minutes or use an app like Pomodoro Time, which will remind you to take breaks periodically throughout the day (you can adjust the brake periods to suit your work style and schedule.) The most important thing to remember is that you need to move throughout the day.
1. “Sitting All Day is Really, Really Bad for You (Infographic).” Mind Body Green. Mind Body Green, 21 August 2014. Web.
2. Vlahos, James. “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?” The New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 14 April 2011. Web.
3. Merchant, Nilofer. “Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 18 January 2013. Web.
4. Christensen, Jen. “Sitting will kill you, even if you exercise.” CNN. CNN, 30 April 2015. Web.
5. Brodwin, Erin. “Here’s the easiest way to undo the harms of sitting all day.” Business Insider. Business Insider Inc, 1 June 2015. Web.