Whether at work or home, 25% of Americans sit for over eight hours a day. And that's a conservative estimate, considering 80% of American jobs require little or no physical activity. You're probably sitting down as you read this article.
And it's killing you. Sitting down for long periods of time causes a slew of physical and mental health problems. It's a risk factor as detrimental as smoking and obesity.
You probably know that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for you. But do you know why, or to what extent? We'll cover some of the health risks associated with prolonged sitting and offer some suggestions to keep you on your feet.
1. Inactivity Leads to Obesity
Sitting down burns a negligible amount of calories. This isn't to say that you should be running on a treadmill or doing jumping jacks as you complete your office work for the day. However, even the alternative of standing burns more calories.
And as we all know, our weight is ultimately determined by our calorie management. If you ingest more calories than you burn, the pounds will start adding up. The recommended average of 2,000 calories a day is likely too much for someone who does little to burn them off throughout the day.
There's a clear correlation between weight and time spent sitting. Obese individuals spend more time sitting than those who weigh less.
2. Sitting Down Can Cause Several Diseases
But it isn't just obesity. In general, sitting down for prolonged periods of time has been linked to serious health complications.
Alongside obesity, people with sedentary lifestyles are twice as likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. According to the World Health Organization, sitting all day is one of the top ten leading causes of death throughout the world.
Perhaps you think you can counter the effects of a sedentary office job by exercising at home. You'd be wrong. Even though most would consider an hour of exercise a day to be part of an active lifestyle, a study found that it doesn't counteract the negative effects of sitting.
3. Poor Posture, Poor Health
If you've ever experienced back, shoulder, or neck pain, it's likely the result of sitting down for too long. It's easy to slump in your chair, rely too much on the backrest, or stoop low to get a closer look at your monitor.
When you hold these uncomfortable positions for hours each day, it will wreak havoc on your posture.
Along with chronic pain that can impact your ability to sleep and function throughout the day, poor posture breeds other health concerns.
Constipation is a common issue related to poor posture. On the other end, you might experience incontinence from additional pressure on your bladder. If your poor posture stresses your abdomen, stomach acid can splash in unintended areas and cause severe heartburn.
Ergonomic office equipment can improve your posture and make your work more comfortable and efficient.
4. Move to Boost Your Mood
Staying in motion is one of the easiest ways you can regulate the chemicals and hormones that shape your mental health. Spending all day in a chair can throw this delicate balance out of whack and harm your mood.
Extensive sitting time is linked to mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. One study found that six hours of sitting or more increased indicators of mental distress.
A similar study noted that you are three times more likely to develop depression if you sit for seven hours every day, compared to those who sit for four or fewer.
The mind and body require physical stimulation to stay at their best. Even something as simple as standing rather than sitting can improve blood flow and release endorphins, the hormones that make you feel happy.
5. Sit All Day, Toss All Night
Do you struggle to sleep soundly at night? Your insomnia could be caused by too much sitting. Staying active improves your daily energy and makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
When you aren't burning your surplus energy throughout the day, you'll be too awake to fall into an easy slumber. In short: the more you sit, the less you sleep.
The research doesn't lie. Those with sedentary lifestyles have an increased risk of insomnia.
And it's not just a matter of energy.
Insomnia is also caused by many of the health consequences that result from sitting down too much. Some of these are physical ailments, such as chronic pain from poor posture.
But your mental health is also a factor. Depression and anxiety can keep your head racing throughout the night and prevent that long-awaited sleep.
Get on Your Feet
Many people rely on a computer at work or as a form of entertainment at home. In fact, a computer is nearly irreplaceable no matter who you are.
Since sitting down is so bad for you, what are the alternatives? Well, there are several ways you can stay off your feet when you're at a desk for long periods of time.
Standing desks are a healthy alternative to staying seated all day in a chair. Using a standing desk is not only healthier but also a more productive option. You'll do more work, faster, and more accurately with a standing desk.
If you simply must stay seated for health purposes or your office won't allow a standing desk, then consider an active sitting chair. These keep you moving, promoting better posture and a more active lifestyle.