Is sitting down the new smoking? It could be if you are sitting down too much. Sitting could be harming your health and increasing your risk for diseases like Cancer, diabetes, and dementia.
In the world we live in where there is not that much need to be active to survive, it’s smart to be proactive and stay active no matter what age.
How much of your waking hours do you sit? It is easy today with TV, Movies, office work, or commuting. The evidence is mounting each day that on average that as a society we all sit too much. In a study that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it stated that on average we sit over 50% of our waking hours.
You don’t need to be an Olympian.
Sitting Down Too Much Can Cause Early Death
Estimates say lack of physical activity and sitting down a lot has become a contributor to disease and shortening of life expectancy similar to smoking tobacco or obesity. Smoking and Obesity causes 1 in 10 deaths. A study written about in the Lancet states that we have a passive attitude about exercise. Doctors actually prescribe bed rest to patients far more than they prescribe exercise!
Exercise is viewed as a personal choice and is reminiscent of the battles still being fought over smoking.
It’s important to get up out of your chair and move about. If you don’t you may be setting yourself up for dementia and/or depression. If you sit too long, everything slows down. On the flip side, moving about pumps blood through the brain and supplying life-giving oxygen to brain cells. When this happens, it triggers your brain to release endorphins.
Endorphins are neurotransmitters and your bodies own pain relieving chemical that is similar to Morphine. You may have heard the term “runners high”.
There are also other neurotransmitters that are released that are involved in a whole range of brain functions such as analgesia or pain relief. There is the reward, food intake, metabolism, reproduction, social behaviors and learning and memory that are controlled and affected by neurotransmitters.
Are you sitting too much each day? If you are it may be advantageous to consider some regular activity to get your blood moving and pumping through your brain so you can get those “feel good” chemicals and ward off depression and dementia.
Early Death: What sitting does to your Heart
It make sense that if you are sitting a lot every day, you have slowed circulation throughout your body and your muscles burn less fat. Your blood flows through your heart slow and fat can easily clog your heart arteries and plaque builds up. You also have a chance of that plaque breaking off and traveling to your brain causing a stroke.
It was shown in a study out of 7744 men, those who sat more than 10 hours per week had a 82% higher risk of dying from heart disease.
Less active, less fit persons have a 30 to 50 % greater risk of developing high blood pressure. It ranks similarly to cigarette smoking. According to the Department of Health of New York State approximately 35% of coronary artery disease deaths are due to physical inactivity.
Early Death: What Sitting Soes To Your Circulation
If you are sitting a lot your blood is slow to circulate and blood can pool. Your legs and ankles and feet can swell. You can also have varicose veins or more dangerous deep vein clots called DVT or deep vein thrombosis.
In one study it was found that those women who were inactive had a higher chance of blood clots forming than those women who were more active. The blood clotted easier in those who were not active. These clots could travel and block blood flow to major organs. However, as soon as the women became more active their risk of blood clots declined sharply.
Early Death: What Sitting Does To Your Bones
If you are sitting for instance at a computer all day, bending forward looking at the screen and typing on the keyboard you are at a high risk for damage to the cervical vertebrae causing at the very least an imbalance. Also if you cradle the phone as you are working on the computer it is adding to the risk.
Those who sit a lot are at higher risk for herniated lumbar disks. There is a muscle that travels through the abdominal cavity called the Psoas muscle. The Psoas muscle can shorten and it then pulls the body forward where you are sitting on the ischial tuberosity instead of distributing the weight along the arch of the spine.
It is important to do weight-bearing exercise as we age to stop muscle loss but it is also important for our bones. It has been shown that physical training of 30 minutes a day 3 times a week can increase bone mass. It does not matter how old you are to have the benefit of increased activity.
Early Death: What sitting Does To Your Pancreas
Your Pancreas produces insulin the hormone that carries glucose into cells. Activity helps the pancreas function at more optimal levels. Exercise has a prominent place in the treatment of diabetes along with diet and insulin.
Obesity may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer but it was shown that as little as 90 minutes of moderate physical activity each week can reduce that risk considerably.
A study in 2011 found that after just one day of prolonged sitting, there was a 22% higher risk of developing Type II Diabetes.
Early Death: What Sitting Does To Your Hips
Hip mobility can decrease when sitting too much. Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is the main reason that elderly people tend to fall. Those who are sitting too much are not stretching the hip flexors causing them to shorten and tighten. This limits range of motion and stride length.
Another problem with your hips if you sit a lot you may have anterior pelvic tilt which means that your hips are rotated forward. Someone with anterior pelvic tilt may appear with a belly pooch and their glutes pointed back. Strengthening the hamstrings, glutes and abdominal muscles and obliques will correct anterior pelvic tilt.
Counteract The Negative Effects Of Sitting Too Much
I bet you already know the answer: sit less and move around more! An easy way to start is taking the opportunity to stand when you can. Movement no matter how leisurely can be profound.
A home treadmill would be a great addition to your home or apartment. The home treadmills today can fold up. Walking is a great way to be active.
As soon as you are moving around your bodily processes begin to increase and function better. You not only feel better because of it, but you reverse the negative effects of sitting too long.
If it is safe for you, I would encourage you to do some cardiovascular activities that will increase your heart rate and increase the blood flow to your brain and body.
Engage in any physical activity that gets you up and moving around. Making healthy choices at any age is beneficial to your overall well being. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Final Thoughts on Sitting Too Much
Sitting too much on a daily basis can be harmful to your overall health. It, in fact, is just like smoking. It causes the same problems! Physical inactivity contributes to a myriad of physical ailments a few of which I mentioned here. The decreased blood flow to your brain can cause depression and contribute to dementia. Your heart suffers and you become high risk for high blood pressure, stroke and disease.
Is sitting down the new smoking? The studies show that lack of physical activity is as bad for your health as smoking.
What do you think? Do you have a question? Please leave me a comment.