Living a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to your health. The less sitting or lying down you do during the day, the better your chances for living a healthy life.
If you stand or move around during the day, you have a lower risk of early death than if you sit at a desk. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you have a higher chance of being overweight, developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease, and experiencing depression and anxiety.
How does a sedentary lifestyle affect your body?
Humans are built to stand upright. Your heart and cardiovascular system work more effectively that way. Your bowel also functions more efficiently when you are upright. It is common for people who are bedridden in hospital to experience problems with their bowel function.
When you are physically active, on the other hand, your overall energy levels and endurance improve, and your bones maintain strength.
Legs and gluteals (bum muscles)
Sitting for long periods can lead to weakening and wasting away of the large leg and gluteal muscles. These large muscles are important for walking and for stabilising you. If these muscles are weak you are more likely to injure yourself from falls, and from strains when you do exercise.
Moving your muscles helps your body digest the fats and sugars you eat. If you spend a lot of time sitting, digestion is not as efficient, so you retain those fats and sugars as fat in your body.
Even if you exercise but spend a large amount of time sitting, you are still risking health problems, such as metabolic syndrome. The latest research suggests you need 60–75 minutes per day of moderate-intensity activity to combat the dangers of excessive sitting.
Hips and back
Just like your legs and gluteals, your hips and back will not support you as well if you sit for long periods. Sitting causes your hip flexor muscles to shorten, which can lead to problems with your hip joints.
Sitting for long periods can also cause problems with your back, especially if you consistently sit with poor posture or don’t use an ergonomically designed chair or workstation. Poor posture may also cause poor spine health such as compression in the discs in your spine, leading to premature degeneration, which can be very painful.
Anxiety and depression
We don’t understand the links between sitting and mental health as well as we do the links between sitting and physical health yet, but we do know that the risk of both anxiety and depression is higher in people that sit more.
This might be because people who spend a lot of time sitting are missing the positive effects of physical activity and fitness. If so, getting up and moving may help.
Sitting for long periods has been linked to heart disease. One study found that men who watch more than 23 hours of television a week have a 64 per cent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than men who only watch 11 hours of television a week.
Some experts say that people who are inactive and sit for long periods have a 147 per cent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Studies have shown that even five days lying in bed can lead to increased insulin resistance in your body (this will cause your blood sugars to increase above what is healthy). Research suggests that people who spend more time sitting have a 112 per cent higher risk of diabetes.
Stiff neck and shoulders
If you spend your time hunched over a computer keyboard, this can lead to pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders. You might think working longer hour means getting more done, but we never work as well when we’re burned out. Studies show that taking regular breaks helps concentrate and boost your mood. Take a five minutes walk around the office or spend 15 minutes in conversation with your office bestie.