Sitting Is the New Smoking, But Why?
These days, most of us spend nine or more hours a day sitting down, and it’s fast becoming a ticking time bomb for our health. Lengthy periods of idleness not only increase the risk of obesity, but they also cause a variety of other concerns, such as back and muscular issues, heart diseases, brittle bones, and even depression.
The World Health Organization has identified lack of physical activity as the fourth biggest killer, and that is why sitting has become the new smoking – not something you want to hear if you do desk work for hours on end, but something you need to understand. You also need to realize what all this sitting is doing to your health and well-being.
A Look at the Studies
Studies conducted in Great Britain have shown that the average person spends a whopping 14 hours a day sitting down. Whether that’s commuting to and from work, doing desk work or sitting on the sofa after a long day, you have to factor in another 7 hours or so for sleeping, and that means most people spend only a third of their time standing.
In another study conducted as far back as the 1950s, bus drivers were examined and shown to be in grave danger of spending too much time sitting down. The study found that drivers were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as train conductors who spend more time standing.
Take a look at how sitting damages your health:
- Good cholesterol can drop by 20%
- Electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts down
- Enzymes that break down fat drop 90%
- Calorie burning drops to just 1 calorie every minute
- People who sit at desks during work have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as those who stand
- Insulin effectiveness drops by 24% which increases the risk of diabetes
What Happens When You Sit for Too Long?
Do you spend more than six hours a day sitting? Most of us do, and this is what’s happening to your health and overall well-being:
- You are shaving off years of quality life
- Your risk of heart disease increased more than 60 percent
- You’re at risk for certain types of cancer
In other words, sitting is killing you.
You’ve probably known since you were a child how bad being a couch potato is. That’s because our bodies weren’t made to sit all day. Sitting for prolonged periods, even if you do partake in exercise regularly, has an adverse effect on your health.
Let’s look at what sitting all day does to the body.
- Immediately after sitting – as soon as you sit down, electrical activity in the muscles slows down, and you start to burn calories at a much lower rate per minute. If you sit for a solid 24 hours, you will experience a 40 percent reduction in glucose uptake which eventually leads to type 2 diabetes.
- After two weeks of sitting for six or more hours every day – within five days of leading a sedentary lifestyle, the body starts to increase LDL cholesterol (the bad one), insulin resistance, and fat molecules, or triglycerides. Therefore, your muscles struggle to take in fat and your blood sugar levels soar which puts you at risk for gaining weight. After two weeks, your muscles begin to atrophy and with that goes your maximum oxygen consumption (also known as V02 Max). You’ll find it tougher to climb a flight of stairs, and walking itself will be a chore. Even if you’re hitting the gym every day, the deterioration starts as soon as you stop moving.
- After a year of sitting for six or more hours a day – after 12 months of sitting for prolonged periods every day, you will begin to experience high cholesterol and weight gain. Studies have reported that women can lose as much as one percent of bone mass per year for sitting for more than six hours a day.
- After a decade or two of sitting for more than six hours a day – sitting for extended periods of time every day for ten to twenty years can shave off as much as seven years of quality life. What’s more, it increases your risk of heart disease and breast or prostate cancer.
The Adverse Effects of Sitting on Your Body and Well-Being
It can be hard to imagine such a simple act being detrimental to your health, but it’s time to face the fact that there is a myriad of devastating implications from working at a desk. Not convinced? Here are 11 adverse effects sitting for too long is having on your body.
- Slower Metabolism
Prolonged sitting leads to decreased muscle contractions which in turn slows the clearance of fat from your bloodstream and also reduces the effect of insulin.
- Lower Energy Expenditure
Sitting for too long reduces your non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is a far greater and more substantial energy expenditure than exercise.
- Spinal and Back Injuries
Static and prolonged loading of tissues over time tend to place undue pressure on your lower back and puts lots of stress on the surrounding joints and muscles.
- Compromised Posture
Sitting leads to your pelvis rotating backwards, and this puts pressure on your lumbar discs. You are then forced to tilt your head forward and curve your shoulders to compensate for the weight transfer, therefore compromising your posture.
- Rheumatic Disorders
Osteoarthritis and other rheumatic diseases are the results of wear and tear on your joints. Excessive amounts of sitting lead to excessive amounts of wear and tear.
- Reduced Social Skills
When communication is reduced to the likes of e-mail, Skype, and other Internet applications, there is a massive decline in social involvement as well as psychological well-being.
- All-Cause Mortality is Negatively Effected
Prolonged sitting is responsible for nearly 7 percent of deaths. The association between all-cause mortality and sitting remains consistent across both sexes, weight, age groups, physical activity levels, and health.
- Depression and Loneliness
When the computer is your primary form of communication, the size of your social circle tends to decline and feelings of loneliness and depression increase. Being stuck at a desk probably also means you don’t get outside enough and the lack of sunshine can result in a vitamin D deficiency and depression.
- Chronic Pain
Extended periods of sitting at a desk along with poor postures can provoke excessive pressure on your lower back, as we mentioned earlier. However, these pains can turn into symptoms of chronic diseases.
We’ve mentioned that sitting for more than six hours a day can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. That’s because sitting all day impairs your body’s ability to handle blood sugar and leads to reduced sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps carry glucose from your blood into your cells where it is used for energy.
Sitting at a desk for more than six hours a day reduces your energy expenditure. That’s because you aren’t using your major muscle groups and your calorie burning drops to an all-time low. Over an extended period of time, this results in weight gain and sometimes obesity.
What Happens When You Ditch the Desk Work and Stand More?
To begin with, getting people on their feet alleviates back pain – a common condition caused by sitting for prolonged periods and poor posture. There are less tangible rewards, too. Many people who ditch their chairs for standing desks report that their moods improve and they are able to think more clearly. It doesn’t take much, either. According to one doctor, if you put that sense of well-being into activity levels, it is the equivalent of running about 8 marathons or more a year, and that’s only if you stand for three or four hours a day at work.
What’s more, using a standing desk can lower blood sugar levels. In one study, 10 office workers were required to stand for 3 hours a day after lunch. This helped to reduce that afternoon blood sugar spike by as much as 43%, compared to their colleagues who sat for the same amount of time. Both groups were required to take the same number of steps which indicated that the smaller spikes were a result of standing rather than additional movements around the workplace.
Time to Take a Stand
The benefits of standing are finally catching on, and even Victoria Beckham has been spotted swapping her office chair for a standing desk. While this may sound like a luxury, adjustable sit-stand desks are becoming more prevalent in the workplace. They allow workers to alter the height of the desk and work either while standing or sitting, offering a highly practical solution.
Experts agree that standing and moving around makes you healthier and happier, and it increases productivity. What’s more, you will feel more alert, more positive, and more task-driven.
If you are ready to ditch the desk work, StandingDeskConverter.com are ready to help you choose the best sit-stand workstations for your office.