Sitting all day unlocks a plethora of physical and mental health problems. Much like smoking, these effects reveal themselves over time.
If you're worried that you're sitting too much, then take action via small, actionable targets that you can definitely meet.
Worried that your sedentary lifestyle will come back to haunt you in the future? In this article, I'll go over the dangers of sitting and how it's impacting your life for the worse.
Check out this Ted talk about the subject:
Sitting all day is just as bad as other habits, such as smoking and heavy drinking.
This may sound like a melodramatic statement, but we'll learn why sitting is so bad for you as this article develops. Without further ado, let's dive right in.
Is Sitting All Day Really as Bad as Smoking?
In many ways, yes. Sitting all day may sound relaxing and desirable for some, but the drawbacks far outweigh the few advantages you may think it has.
For starters, we need to understand that the human body was not built for long periods of stillness.
In fact, it evolved for a world much different than the one we live in today - one filled with danger, potential predators, and constant food shortages.
There's a reason why our legs constitute most of our muscle mass as we needed them to run away from predators, walk long distances for food, and strike down potential murderers with powerful kicks.
The modern world, however, has changed far too quickly for our bodies to keep up with.
Our 21st-century society has us sitting down for hours and hours upon end, causing difficulties with our most basic bodily functions.
Your heart, for example, works best when you're active and moving because it formed during a time where movement was essential.
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Your bowels work better when you're on the move because that's what they're used to. Bone strength and energy levels are at their peak when your lifestyle is athletic and healthy.
What are the Effects of Sitting All Day?
1. Leg Atrophy
An extremely sedentary lifestyle can cause your gluteal muscles to waste.
Also referred to as the 'butt', the gluteus maximus is responsible for powering hip drives and keeping us stable.
If these muscles are neglected, then you'll have a higher chance of injuring yourself and carrying your weight around.
2. Weight Gain
Speaking of weight, it's likely to skyrocket if all you do is sit all day.
This is because your body isn't burning nearly as many calories. It also makes it harder for your body to digest the food you eat, meaning a lot more of what you consume is stored as fat.
If you're worried that your lack of activity is having a detrimental effect on your weight, then you're not alone.
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As four out of five adults and teens don't participate in enough weekly exercise. Adults need around 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week - a quota the majority of the population fails at fulfilling.
3. Mental Health Problems
We're no strangers to the phenomenon of 'runner's high' - an elevated mental state after a rigorous running session - but what causes it?
Well, when we exercise, our brains emit high levels of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals that help keep depression and anxiety at bay. They also help keep us focused and prepared for the day.
Those who don't exercise, however, will not be able to reap the endless rewards of endorphins.
This puts them at risk of developing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
As I said earlier, the human body was not designed for prolonged periods of sitting, and neither was the human mind.
4. Increased Risk of Chronic Disease
Heart disease is the biggest killer in the United States. Considering how high the obesity rate is, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Sitting for extended periods is known to contribute to heart disease. In fact, studies show that it may be one of its leading causes.
Other chronic diseases, such as blood clots, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer, are known to be linked to inactivity.
How Many Hours a Day Should I Sit?
Whilst we know that sitting all day is bad, there's not a lot we can do about it if our jobs force us to partake.
There's also no golden rule on how long we should remain sitting. If you're a waiter or waitress, then you'll be sitting down a lot less than someone who works behind a screen.
It's due to the variety of jobs out there that it's hard to give definitive advice to everyone.
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However, there are some things we can do to limit the damage sitting does to us. Try and get up from your desk once every hour.
Go for a walk and fill up your water bottle. Grab a healthy snack. Stretch.
These may sound like small steps, but they'll quickly become a habit you can build upon.
Good habits, no matter how small, will stack up - changing your behavior and, eventually, your lifestyle.
What is Meant by the Phrase 'Sitting is the New Smoking?'
You may have heard this phrase banded around. Although it may sound dramatic and inaccurate, it's actually surprisingly true.
Much like smoking, sitting all day created a laundry list of health problems over time. It can affect everything from your cardiovascular system to your balance. It's a long term killer that is created by years and years of bad habits.
Just as smoking once was, perpetual sitting is widespread throughout society with many people not realizing how much it's impacting them for the worse.
Maybe in the future, workplaces will ban all-day sitting, just as they banned indoor smoking.
Is Lying Down Healthier Than Sitting?
Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Lying down for long periods is just as bad as sitting down. Bedsores are a common part of hospital life.
Deep-vein thrombosis can happen if you're laid down for too long. You can damage your neck.
You get the gist - lying down, unless it's for well-earned rest, is no good for your physical and mental health.
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Working from the comfort of your own bed may sound tempting, but it's terrible for your health and no different from sitting down all day.
Final Thoughts on Sitting
By now, you should be fully aware of the dangers of sitting too much and what effect it has on your body.
We must remember how new our species is to the world. Just a few thousand years ago, we were hunter-gatherers who were active 365 days a year.
Suddenly, most of us are sat under fluorescent lights, hunched over a computer for eight hours a day.
This massive change in such a short period has left our bodies ill-equipped to deal with sitting all day.
Everything from an unflattering rear end to serious disease is made more likely by a sedentary lifestyle. Not to mention the increased risk of mental health problems,
Though it may sound too challenging to massively change your activity levels, it can be done via small, achievable goals throughout the day. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a healthy lifestyle.