You know too much sitting is bad for you. But just how bad is it? Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with several health concerns including obesity, high blood pressure and more.
Americans now sit more than they sleep, spending an average of 10 hours a day in a car, at work and in front of a television. Older adults are the worst offenders, according to federal government statistics: Almost three-quarters are sedentary, and more than four in 10 get no leisure-time physical activity at all.
Too much sitting can lead to:
- Depression and Anxiety – A study in Mental Health and Physical Activity found that the more you sit at work, the greater your risk of depression and anxiety, even if you exercise. In contrast, other research shows that the more people move throughout the day, the happier they are.
- Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Conditions – you burn fewer calories sitting, but also the hormone insulin’s ability to move glucose out of blood and into cells may decline when you sit for long periods. Cholesterol and markers of inflammation may go up; how you metabolize fat changes; and vascular function may be reduced. All of these can have disastrous results.
- Back and Neck Pain – Just four hours of sitting can compress a key disc in your lower back and poor posture can also lead to disc problems in your neck, such as a herniated disc.
- Weak Bones – Weight-bearing exercise, including standing and walking, stresses your bones in a good way, signaling specialized cells to replace old bone tissue with new. When you sit too much, the body replaces less of what it loses, leading to fragile bones and a greater risk of osteoporosis, especially as you age.
- Blood Clots – Slow blood flow in the legs from a sedentary lifestyle, possibly along with lower levels of clot-preventing proteins, increases your risk. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that women who sat for more than 40 hours per week had more than double the risk of a clot moving to their lungs compared with those who sat less than 10 hours.
So, what can you do to counteract the negative results of all that sitting? Take these three steps:
- Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes.
- Stand while talking on the phone or watching television.
- If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.