What can really go wrong if you spend too much time perched on your derriere? Here is a rather sobering list…
1. Organ damage
Muscles weaken and blood flow slows, which allows fatty acids to clog the arteries of the heart more easily. Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and raised cholesterol, and people with the most sedentary time are more than twice as likely to have heart disease than the most active.
Moving your body causes fresh blood and oxygen to pump nicely through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. When we don’t move enough, everything becomes sluggish, including brain function.
The pancreas produces too much insulin as the muscles that normally respond to it become resistant to it, which can lead to diabetes and other diseases.
Studies have linked sitting to a greater risk for colon, breast and endometrial cancers. There is not enough evidence to say why, but one theory is that excess insulin encourages cell growth.
2. Muscle Degeneration
ABS, not of steel
When you stand, move or hold any position at all, abdominal muscles keep you upright. But when you slump in a chair, your abdominals switch off. Muscles in your back then tighten and when combined with your mushy abs will reek havoc with your posture that can exaggerate the spine’s natural arch, leading to back pain and beyond.
If you sit for prolonged periods your hip flexor muscles very rarely get the stretch out they need. Without this they become short and tight, limiting range of motion and stride length.
Sitting requires your glutes to do absolutely nothing, something they get used to very quickly. If your gluteal muscles aren’t strong enough you will likely have reduced stability around your pelvis and by extension your feet and legs.
3. Leg disorders
Sitting for long periods causes fluid to pool in the legs. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running stimulate bones in your legs to grow thicker, denser and stronger.
Craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle a phone while typing can strain the joints of the and lead to imbalances in muscle tension, intervertebral disc hydration and joint flexibility.
SORE SHOULDERS AND BACK
The neck doesn’t slouch alone. Slumping forward over stretches shoulder and back muscles as well, causing them to ache and feel stiff and sore.
When we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around tendons and ligaments, leaving us feeling stiff and un-youthful!
People who sit more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks.
When we move, the discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. But when we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly and the collagen fibres that make up the walls of the discs to lose flexibility and leaving them vulnerable to tearing.
Next week we have what you can do to help yourself even if your job requires hours of sitting…