You don’t know it yet, but as unlikely as it sounds, sitting all day at the office desk is killing you. Doctors are even referring to prolonged sitting as the new smoking. And why? The health effects of both are the same. Like smoking, sitting for too long puts you at risk of varicose veins, blood clots, and heart disease. To that, add obesity, cancer, and diabetes. And these are only 6 of the 11 dangers of sitting we’ll be looking at. And it’s easy to see why sitting can, indeed, kill you. Let’s look at each danger in detail.
You Don’t Know It, But Sitting All Day Is Killing You
- Weak Muscles
Moving about in the office strengthens your muscles. Standing at an adjustable table tightens them. But sitting in your chair does neither. Instead, it relaxes the muscles in your lower body, especially those in the hips, butt, and legs. And without experiencing any movement, they weaken with time. Unfortunately, these are the muscles holding you up. So, as they weaken, you lose stability when walking.
As you lose muscle, you gain more fat, especially around the waist. This combination of more fat and less muscle makes your cells respond slowly to insulin. Known as insulin-resistance, this condition results in high blood sugar levels and, ultimately, to diabetes.
- Back Pain
Sitting applies pressure to and compresses both the spine and pelvis. But their design allows them to handle the strain, but only up to a point. Sit in a poor posture for too long and the strain becomes more than they can handle. Soon, they start degenerating, causing chronic neck and lower back pain.
- Varicose Veins
When you sit, your blood flows slowly through your body. Sit for long periods, however, and the blood starts pooling in the lower body. And being the lowest part, the legs experience the greatest pooling. Their veins dilate as a result. And if the dilation continues for too long, it becomes permanent. Then, unsightly varicose veins form in the legs.
- Blood Clots
For the most part, varicose veins are not dangerous. All they are is unsightly. But the slow-moving blood in them sometimes clots. When these clots break off, they travel to the rest of the body where they block blood vessels. And with their blood supply cut off, any organs connected to these vessels fail.
You’d think that all that mental work at the office sharpens your mental abilities. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. As just mentioned, sitting slows down the circulation of blood. And when this happens, the brain receives less oxygen and glucose. Its cells degenerate and eventually die. Then, brain function slows down. And dementia sets in as you age.
Work involving sitting leaves you anxious and depressed for two reasons. One, it denies you the benefits of mood-boosting hormones, which are produced through exercise or any physical activity. And two, it denies you the chance to interact with others, especially if it involves you working in a secluded cubicle.
Moving your muscles burn a lot of fat and uses up a lot of calories. Relaxing them, such when sitting, does not. They burn and use up just enough fat and calories to sustain their needs. The body then converts the excess calories they leave behind into fat. And as the fat reserves increase, so does your weight. Over time, you become obese.
- Reduced Lifespan
This is perhaps the scariest side effect of prolonged sitting and the resulting obesity. According to a 2015 study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, excess abdominal fat reduces your life expectancy by as much as 30 percent. And you’re particularly at risk if your waistline exceeds 40 inches as a man and 34 inches as a woman. Conducted on more than 300,000 participants over 12 years, the study revealed that activity.
- Heart Disease
Obesity from sitting has a second, equally-dangerous side effect. On the one hand, it raises blood triglycerides, which are fats made from excess calories. And on the other, it also lowers HDL cholesterol, which protects blood vessels against fat build-ups. This combination of high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol causes a narrowing of the blood vessels. And if left unchecked, this leads to heart disease.
Too much sitting and the risk of cancer go hand in hand. After being inactive for long, your body produces too many free radicals. A natural by-product of metabolism, these unstable molecules then oxidize or change the nature and behavior of body cells.
To complicate matters further, inactivity also stimulates the production of insulin, a hormone known to encourage cell growth. When the hormone speeds up the growth of the abnormal oxidized cells, cancer may result.
Sitting at an office desk for hours at a time has always been associated with hard work. Now we know better. It’s also linked to health risks, such as heart disease, diabetes, and blood clots. For that reason, walk around every few hours or work when standing at a desk.