Inactivity – that is the main reason why sitting is so unhealthy and damaging to our health.
When we are up and moving, blood is flowing to all parts of our body, but when we sit for extended periods of time, blood tends to pool in our lower extremities.
Reduced Brain Function
Without blood flowing throughout our body as it should, brain function slows down. This inhibits certain mood-enhancing and cognitive chemicals that would otherwise be released if we were up and moving. The result is brain fogginess.
With blood pooling, blood flow tends to get sluggish allowing fatty acids to build quicker resulting in plaque, elevated cholesterol and eventually heart disease. If we are up and moving, fatty acids are better flushed from the circulatory system.
Sitting for a good portion of your work day can also increase your risk for certain cancers, – especially colon. While not fully understood why, scientists think it could be because of the extra insulin that builds up in our systems which triggers unwanted cell growth. Uncontrolled cell growth manifests itself as cancer and in the case of sitting, seems to develop in the colon.
Muscle Degeneration and Tightening
When we are up and moving about, standing or even sitting up straight, our abdominal muscles support our back. But when slumped over, the abs are not doing their fair share of work, thus they are getting weaker and extra pressure is applied to the back muscles. This muscle imbalance can eventually lead to a condition called sway back resulting in back pain.
Prolonged sitting can also lead to a shortening and tightening of the hip flexors. Over time, this reduces the range of motion in your hips and can increase your risk for falls.
Herniated disks is also a common condition of people who sit a lot. Prolonged sitting tightens up the psoas muscle – the muscle running from the hips to the spine that provides stability. Over time, it shortens up from non-use and pulls the lower spine forward putting excessive pressure on some disks. Eventually disks that act like sponge-like shock absorbers squeeze out between two vertebrae causing pain and sometimes surgery to correct the condition.
So what is the cure? Getting up and moving around for at least 5 minutes every 30 minutes or so. Get a cup of coffee or a glass of water, or hand deliver a colleague a message instead of emailing it – anything to get you up and moving.