Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Danger Of Sitting

America is a predominantly sedentary culture. We sit at our desks, at the dinner table, in the car, at church, in class, in front of the TV, at rest stops, at presentations, and practically anywhere else we happen to find ourselves. We do this out of comfort, mainly - standing is tiring, whereas sitting allows us to relax and be comfortable. However, the unfortunate truth is that all this sitting is taking a serious toll on our collective health. Central Ozarks Medical Center is here to take a look at the danger of sitting for extended periods of time.

Health Risks Of Sitting

Sitting is least healthy position we regularly put our bodies in - it carries the potential for more adverse health effects than standing or lying down. This is partially because Americans, as a whole, sit with very poor posture that limits circulation and contributes to a variety of health problems. Here is a quick look at some of the parts of the body that may be adversely affected by prolonged sitting:

When you sit, your muscles burn less fat and your blood flows more slowly. This makes it easier for fatty acids to build up in your heart, which can significantly increase your chances of developing heart disease.

As blood flows more slowly, so does the transportation of oxygen and various important chemicals. All aspects of the body can be affected, including the brain. Sitting for several hours may cause your brain to become foggy and sluggish. If you've ever felt "brain dead" and resorted to a quick walk to clear your mind, then you probably know exactly what we're talking about. 

Not long ago, we discussed how the pancreas produces insulin - a hormone that enables the body to break down the glucose in the blood and transform it into usable energy. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause the body to produce too much insulin, and when there is an excess amount of a certain hormone, the body begins to ignore its signals. Excess insulin may hinder the body's ability to convert blood sugar into usable energy, which can contribute to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (Learn more about diabetes here.)

Abdomen & Back
Standing or sitting upright requires your core abdominal muscles to work. However, if you're like most people, you relax into a comfortable slouch when you sit down. Slouching doesn't require any effort from your abdominal muscles, and as such they may become weak and atrophied overtime. Consistent slouching also causes numerous back problems.

The problems with slouching do not stop at the back. Hunching forward requires your neck to strain upwards in order for you to look straight ahead (at your computer screen, for example). Prolonged strain on the cervical vertebrae in this manner takes a serious toll on the body and may result in several problems, including headaches.

These five examples can help you get preliminary understanding of the different ways extended sitting adversely impacts health, but the list doesn't stop there. Extended sitting has also been linked to increased risk of:
  • Lung cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Hip problems
  • Varicose veins
  • Weak bones
  • Weight gain
  • Mental health issues

What Can We Do To Counteract The Problem?

Sources estimate that many American spend nearly half their lives (over ten hours per day) sitting down. Until recently, it was thought that by going on a walk, run, or jog (or performing another type of physical activity) in the mornings or evenings could offset the adverse health effects of sitting throughout much of the day. However, recent studies have indicated that this is not true.

Last year, the American Heart Association (AHA) went so far as to say that no amount of exercise can make up for how much we sit during the day. What, then, can we do?

Evening and/or morning exercise is important, but it shouldn't be our primary focus. Instead, we should make a point of moving as much as we can throughout the day. Unfortunately, if you have a desk job, this is often easier said than done. There are things you can do, however, such as getting up and take a quick walk outside, standing up frequently to grab a drink or a healthy snack, and/or taking the time to do a few stretches throughout your day.

Good Luck!

We hope that this information has inspired you to make movement a priority in your life. The important thing to remember is that any movement is better than no movement - rather than overwhelming yourself by setting impossible goals, focus on adding a little extra movement whenever and however you can.

If you should need professional medical assistance at any point, remember that Central Ozarks Medical Center is always here for you. With several convenient locations around the central Missouri area, our affordable healthcare services at the Lake of the Ozarks and in Richland are available whenever and wherever you need us.

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