Sit All Day? These Terrifying Health Risks Will Make You Move!

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Sit All Day? These Terrifying Health Risks Will Make You Move!

Many of us spend most of our days sitting, whether it’s at an office, working from home, commuting, or relaxing. This increase in sedentary behavior has serious health implications.

“A sedentary lifestyle has become the norm in the United States with dire health consequences,” says Alex Mafdali, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care. “Prolonged sitting can lead to weight gain, osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and deep vein thrombosis.”

While it may be impossible to avoid sitting during a 9 to 5 job, small changes can help counteract these negative effects. Here’s what happens to your body when it remains sedentary and how you can introduce movement breaks throughout your day.

Loss of Strength and Flexibility

When you sit all day, your muscles and joints can lose strength and flexibility due to inactivity. Prolonged periods of sitting can lead to passive back muscle stiffness. “Sitting restricts muscle metabolism, affecting blood flow, muscle tissue oxygenation, and inflammation regulation,” says Dr. Mafdali. This can weaken muscles, including core stabilizers, hip joints, hip flexors, glutes, shoulders, and wrists.

Development of Bad Posture

Sitting for long periods strains your muscles and joints, leading to poor posture. Your head, neck, and shoulders may begin to slouch, causing spinal strain and muscle overcompensation. “Underactivity can lead to an inability to maintain upright posture, while overactivity can cause forward head migration and shoulder rounding,” says Dr. Mafdali. Poor posture can lead to back and neck pain, sleep problems, poor circulation, headaches, constipation, and slowed digestion.

Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases

Sedentary behavior can lead to chronic inflammation, causing health concerns like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. A 2019 research review found a “dose-dependent” relationship between sitting time and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even dying. Sitting for too long can also lead to weight gain and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Metabolic Changes

A sedentary lifestyle affects metabolism, disrupting glucose metabolism and energy storage. “Sitting for extended periods can make it difficult to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure and weaken bones,” says Vanessa Rissetto, Registered Dietitian and CEO of Culina Health. This can lead to insulin sensitivity, increasing the likelihood of weight gain.

Mental Health Effects

Too much sitting is linked to mental health struggles. A 2023 study found that sitting for more than eight hours a day can raise the risk of depression and anxiety. “Physical activity releases serotonin, which helps with mood,” says Rissetto. Less movement means less serotonin, contributing to depression.

How to Counteract the Effects

Here’s how you can counteract some of these negative effects:

  • Move: Aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day, three to five days a week. If you can’t manage that, try 10 minutes of stretching or walking a few times a day.
  • Sit up Straight: Be aware of your posture. Keep your feet flat on the floor, knees level with your hips, avoid slouching, and use lumbar support or a standing desk.
  • Seek Out Sunlight: Step outside at the top of every work hour for five to 10 minutes, eat lunch away from your work area, and consider using a light box
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