Our bodies were built to move, for obvious evolutionary reasons, but modern society, with all its advancements and achievements, has us sitting down far too much. At work, in our commutes, even in our downtime, we sit down for the majority of our waking hours. Sitting is a part of life, but too much sitting is taking away our life, too.
The expression of getting up to “stretch our legs” takes on a whole new meaning when you consider the huge impact that a sedentary lifestyle has on our overall health. Research is still ongoing, but studies to date all suggest that too much sitting in our day has a severe impact on our health. Excessive sitting has been likened to a smoking habit and is considered equally as harmful. As important as it is to “take a load off” and “sit and stay for a while,” we do so at significant risk to our long-term wellness.
Your daily workout is good for your health, but it does not give you an excuse to sit down all day, as prolonged inactivity has the same negative impact on the most hardcore gym-goer as it does on the everyday couch potato. The solution is simple: get moving, and know exactly what too much sitting does to our bodies, both physically and mentally.
When we sit for too long, our heart isn’t able to pump oxygenated blood to our brains, leaving us feeling lethargic. This lethargy can have a significant emotional and psychological impact, leading to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Although we sit to eat, sitting puts pressure on our digestive systems and can limit blood flow necessary for digestion. This may lead to issues with bloating, acid reflux, or other significant problems associated with our gastrointestinal system.
Our head, neck, and shoulders are also subject to strain due to sitting down. From our computers to our phones, we’re often sitting in awkward positions that put a strain on these muscles, leading to pain and discomfort.
When we sit, our hamstrings, hip flexors, and abdominal muscles are rendered inactive. These muscles tighten, over the course of the day and beyond, which can contribute to back pain and an overall weaker core.
Diabetes, heart disease, even some cancers have been linked to a sedentary lifestyle.
Clearly, we can’t stand up all day either, and even that has its own health risks. And sitting down is good for us too, but there needs to be a balance. The solution is simple – we need to get up and move. Not just a daily workout, but throughout the day and into the evening. We spend so much time sitting at our desks, then sitting for our commute to and from work, then sitting when we get home, and that amount of sit-time really starts to add up.
We can counteract the effects of excessive sitting by standing up at our desks at least every hour, stretching in our desk chairs, and using commercial breaks to get up and perform some squats, lunges, or jumping jacks – anything to keep the blood flowing and our muscles active will help counteract the effects of too much sitting.