We are all familiar with how harmful smoking can be to the body. Smoking, among other similar habits, is thought to be dangerous and to be avoided at all costs.
What many of us are not familiar with, however, is that many bad habits seem innocent but can be just as detrimental as smoking.
After more than a year of working from home, many have gotten comfortable with a sedentary lifestyle.
But it is time we all address our unhealthy habits, especially the one a lot of us have fallen into together: sitting.
Why is “Sitting” Harmful?
The human body is built for standing and moving around. Some studies have even shown that our bodies cannot function properly when we sit for long periods.
Our bones can become compressed, our blood flow can be compromised, and problems may occur with our digestive systems and bowel movements. Too much sitting and physical inactivity can put you at an increased risk of diabetes, greater risk for strains and sprains, and a higher risk for a variety of other health concerns and chronic diseases.
These are just some of the adverse effects when you sit for most of the day. Here are some of the more significant long-term determinants that may be linked to sitting for long periods of time.
As expected, sitting for long periods can cause problems in the heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and clogged arteries.
This is because movement helps keep your heart strong and helps to lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar in the body. When you sit for most of the day, your heart may become weaker, making you more susceptible to vascular illness.
Sitting for long periods can also lead to blood clots that build up in the arteries of the leg. A lack of movement predominantly causes this.
Because movement helps us burn calories and use up energy in our bodies, a lack of movement may excessively store calories and energy. This leads to weight gain and excess body fat.
Excessive weight is one of the biggest health epidemics the country is facing. It leads to many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and organ failure.
Loss of Energy and Strength
Do you ever feel groggy when you have been sitting or lying in one place for a long amount of time? Evidence supports that lack of movement leads to decreased energy and motivation. This is because movement increases blood flow throughout the body, and therefore the transportation of oxygen and nutrients.
Furthermore, muscles and bones grow weaker when they are not regularly used. This is because the body begins to think that they are no longer needed. We may no longer be strong enough to run, walk long distances, or lift heavy objects without regular movement.
Stiff Bones and Muscles
Have you ever had back or shoulder pain after being hunched over a computer for a few hours? Sitting, whether it's at a desk, in a chair, or on the couch, leads to stiffness in muscles and bones such as your hips and legs. This is also because most people do not keep a healthy posture while they are sitting.
Poor posture causes muscles in our shoulders, necks, and backs to become stiff and sore. Sitting also puts stress on the bones in our lower back, which also leads to back pain and lack of strength in the area.
While everyone is different, it has been proven that the lack of movement and activity can generally lead to decreased mood, increased anxiety and depression, and other issues with mental health.
Movement releases “happy” chemicals in our brain and body that help uplift our mood. Sitting can lead to lethargy and lack of motivation, which can be fixed with some movement throughout the day.
Aside from the biological benefits, a change of scenery and activity can help you avoid becoming bored or stuck in the same cycles.
How to Break Out of a Sedentary Lifestyle
It can be difficult to become active after living a sedentary lifestyle for a while.
Luckily, you can work towards getting yourself moving again. Here are some tips:
Exercising does not mean you have to work out for three hours a day, seven days a week. The recommended amount is only 30 minutes five days a week. But even if that is too much to start, there is no need to worry!
You can build up your strength and stamina slowly by starting small. For office workers, this could mean taking the stairs rather than the elevator, taking a 30-minute walk every day before or after work, or doing ten jumping jacks every morning.
Using a standing or treadmill desk can also help you achieve less sitting and can help regulate blood pressure.
Find Activities You Love
Many people are convinced that exercise cannot be enjoyable, that it is something you have to do to be healthy, a chore. This should not be the case!
There are many different types of exercise and physical activities you can choose from. A few include yoga, running, swimming, biking, and kickboxing, and older adults can benefit from low-impact aerobics.
If exercise feels like a drag, keep trying new things to see what you like best. Enjoying your exercise routine will help you keep on track and avoid falling back into a sedentary lifestyle.
Sitting for long periods of time can take a toll on your body in various ways. Sitting contributes to a sedentary lifestyle, which is a risk factor for chronic diseases and conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Making small lifestyle changes to incorporate more physical activity into your life can help you stay healthy even if your job requires you to stay seated for extended periods. Opting for stairs over elevators, taking walks, and taking small exercise breaks are all simple ways to support your health.