You are probably sitting right now to read this article. In fact, you might have been sitting for a few minutes by now. While sitting for a short period of time might not affect you in any way, sitting for extended periods of time can have a lot of negative impacts on your health. Sure, sitting for brief periods can help us recover from fatigue or stress but nowadays our lifestyles require us to sit much more than what our body requires.
Our bodies aren’t built to stay still for long hours. In fact, the human body is designed for movement, and our skeleton includes 360 joints. More than 250 of those joints are able to move in more than one direction. This unique structure gives the human body the ability to perform a wide variety of movements. The body’s structure allows us to stand up straight against the pull of gravity and our blood depends on us moving around to circulate around the body. So what happens if you don’t move all day in a body that is designed for movement?
First, let’s start with the spine. Your spine is composed of bones and cartilage discs between them. Joints, muscles and ligaments attach to the bone and hold them all together. Most people have a curved back while sitting. This puts unnecessary tension on the spine. Over time, this causes wear and tear in the spine and the muscles and ligaments in your back have to stretch to accommodate the bad posture. This hunched position also makes your chest cavity smaller which means that your lungs have less space to expand into when you breathe. This temporarily reduces the amount of oxygen that is taken in by the body.
Your skeleton is surrounded by muscles, blood vessels and nerves. These can get blocked or compressed while you sit. Have you ever experienced numbness and swelling in your limbs after long periods of sitting? In areas that are the most compressed, your arteries and nerves can get blocked which cuts off nerve signaling causing numbness and blocked blood flow which causes swelling.
Sitting also inhibits an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase which captures fat in the blood and incinerates it. When you’re standing, the postural muscles that support your weight, mostly in your legs, release the enzyme, which goes to work burning fat. But when you’re sitting still, and not shifting every 30 to 90 seconds as the body does naturally, the fat stays in the arteries.
Most of the time, you sit down to use your brain, to work or to study. However, long periods of sitting actually counter this goal. Being stationary, reduces blood flow and the amount of oxygen supplied by the lungs. Your brain requires both of these to remain alert so your concentration levels will most likely fall as you remain seated.
Sitting can also have negative effects in the long term. Sitting for long periods is linked to some types of cancer and heart disease and can contribute to diabetes, kidney and liver problems. People who spend more time sitting are also more likely to become disabled when compared with people with similar health and exercise habits who sit less.
Fortunately, we can prevent all of these with some simple steps. When you have to sit, make sure to have a good posture instead of slouching. When you aren’t expected to stay seated for the whole time, try to give a reminder to stand up and move around every 30 minutes. Since you’ve reached the end of this article, why not stand up and move around right now? Stand up and do a few stretches before continuing onto the next article.