Scientists first noticed something was up in a study that compared two similar groups: transit drivers, who sit most of the day, and conductors or guards, who don’t. Though their diets and lifestyles were a lot alike, those that sat were about twice as likely to get heart disease as those that stood.
It Can Shorten Your Life
You’re more likely to die earlier from any cause if you sit for long stretches at a time. It doesn’t help if you exercise every day or not. Of course, that’s no excuse to skip the gym. If you do that, your time may be even shorter.
Dementia Is More Likely
If you sit too much, your brain could look just like that of someone with dementia. Sitting also raises your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, which all play a role in the condition. Moving throughout the day can help even more than exercise to lower your risk of all these health problems.
You’ll Undo All That Exercise
The effects of too much sitting are hard to counter with exercise. Even if you work out 7 hours a week -- far more than the suggested 2-3 hours -- you can’t reverse the effects of sitting 7 hours at a time. Don’t throw away all that hard work at the gym by hitting the couch for the rest of the day. Keep moving!
Your Odds of Diabetes Rise
Yup, you’re more likely to have it, too, if you sit all day. And it isn’t only because you burn fewer calories. It’s the actual sitting that seems to do it. It isn’t clear why, but doctors think sitting may change the way your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that helps it burn sugar and carbs for energy.
You Could Get DVT
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a clot that forms in your leg, often because you sit still for too long. It can be serious if the clot breaks free and lodges in your lung. You might notice swelling and pain, but some people have no symptoms. That’s why it’s a good idea to break up long sitting sessions.
You’ll Gain Weight
Watch a lot of TV? Surf the web for hours on end? You’re more likely to be overweight or obese. If you exercise every day, that’s good, but it won’t make a huge dent in extra weight you gain as a result of too much screen time
Your Anxiety Might Spike
It could be that you’re often by yourself and engaged in a screen-based activity. If this disrupts your sleep, you can get even more anxious. Plus, too much alone time can make you withdraw from friends and loved ones, which is linked to social anxiety. Scientists are still trying to figure out the exact cause.
It Wrecks Your Back
The seated position puts huge stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine. It’s even worse if you slouch. Look for an ergonomic chair -- that means it’ll be the right height and support your back in the proper spots. But remember: No matter how comfortable you get, your back still won’t like a long sitting session. Get up and move around for a minute or two every half hour to keep your spine in line.
It Leads to Varicose Veins
Sit for too long and blood can pool in your legs. This puts added pressure in your veins. They could swell, twist, or bulge -- what doctors call varicose veins. You may also see spider veins, bundles of broken blood vessels nearby. They usually aren’t serious, but they can ache. Your doctor can tell you about treatment options if you need them.
If You Don’t Move It, You Could Lose It
Older adults who aren’t active may be more likely to get osteoporosis (weakened bones) and could slowly become unable to perform basic tasks of everyday life, like taking a bath or using the toilet. While moderate exercise won’t prevent it, you don’t have to go out and run a marathon or take up farming to stay mobile in your golden years. Just don’t plant yourself on the couch for hours at a time.
Your Cancer Risk Goes Up
You may be more likely to get colon, endometrial, or lung cancer. The more you sit, the higher the odds. Older women have higher odds of breast cancer. That doesn’t change if you’re super-active. What matters is how much you sit.
How to Take a Stand
Work more movement into your day: Stand up and stretch every half hour or so. Touch your toes. Take a stroll around the office. Stand at your desk for part of the day. Get a desk that raises or make your own: Set your computer on top of a box. Talk to your boss about a treadmill desk. All these things can help stop the negative effects of uninterrupted sitting and keep you on the road to good health.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
University of Minnesota: “London Transport Workers Study.”
BC Medical Journal: “Exercise and the heart: A review of the early studies, in memory of Dr R.S. Paffenbarger.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Too much sitting linked to heart disease, diabetes, premature death.”
National Institutes of Health: "Prediabetes & Insulin Resistance.”
American Journal of Epidemiology: “Associations of Accelerometer-Measured and Self-Reported Sedentary Time With Leukocyte Telomere Length in Older Women.”
PloS One: “Long Leukocyte Telomere Length at Diagnosis Is a Risk Factor for Dementia Progression in Idiopathic Parkinsonism,” “Minimal Intensity Physical Activity (Standing and Walking) of Longer Duration Improves Insulin Action and Plasma Lipids More than Shorter Periods of Moderate to Vigorous Exercise (Cycling) in Sedentary Subjects When Energy Expenditure Is Comparable.”
Mayo Clinic Proceedings: “Physical Exercise as a Preventive or Disease-Modifying Treatment of Dementia and Brain Aging.”
Alzheimer’s Association: “Risk Factors.”
NIH News In Health: “Don’t Just Sit There!”
Mayo Clinic: “Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Overview,” “What are the risks of sitting too much?”
Journal of Epidemiology: “Television viewing time is associated with overweight/obesity among older adults, independent of meeting physical activity and health guidelines.”
Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism: “Appetite regulation in response to sitting and energy imbalance.”
Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews: “Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior.”
BMC Public Health: “The association between sedentary behaviour and risk of anxiety: a systematic review.”
UCLA Health: “Ergonomics for Prolonged Sitting.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Varicose Veins.”
Journal of Physical Activity & Health: “Sedentary time in U.S. older adults associated with disability in activities of daily living independent of physical activity.”
Diabetologia: "Sick of sitting."
Journal of the National Cancer Institute: “Sedentary behavior increases the risk of certain cancers.”
Cancer Causes & Control: “Associations of change in television viewing time with biomarkers of postmenopausal breast cancer risk: the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study.”