You probably know the importance of physical activity in promoting good health and reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases, yet you most likely spend over eight hours each day sitting even without knowing it. That is a third of the entire 24 hours in a day. Several hours in traffic plus nine hours at the workplace are mostly spent sitting. What about the hours spent watching TV? Little have we thought about the implications of those long hours we spend each day in sitting position with minimal physical activity. Recently, researches have shown that there are serious health risks associated with prolonged sitting.

Risk of cardiovascular diseases
It is now documented that prolonged sitting increases the risk of chronic cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and heart diseases. Physical activity stimulates the heart to pump better and faster in order to meet the body’s demands for nutrients and oxygen as well removal of metabolic wastes. In the absence of physical activity during sitting, the heart slows down. Furthermore, the physical inactivity ensured by prolonged sitting reduces the metabolic process in the body leading to the accumulation of unhealthy fatty acids and elevation of blood cholesterol thereby predisposing the body to chronic diseases.

Risk of diabetes mellitus
Prolonged sitting can reduce glucose metabolism. When you are sitting, your body uses less energy and thus less glucose is being metabolized. The lack of activity and reduced metabolism can predispose one to diabetes mellitus. Studies have shown that you burn over 30 percent fewer calories while sitting than during standing.

Risk of Obesity
Reduced physical activity is a big risk for obesity. The physical inactivity ensured by prolonged sitting reduces your body’s metabolic processes and fat metabolism is invariably affected. Less fat being metabolized means more fat being stored in the body tissues. Prolonged sitting can predispose you to obesity especially truncal obesity with disproportionate fat deposition in the trunks and around the waist region. Obesity is a serious risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and sudden death.

Poor digestion
Prolonged sitting can affect your digestion. The abdomen and its contents tend to get compressed during sitting. This obviously can affect food transit in the intestines and can lead to digestive problems like indigestion, heartburn, constipation, and abdominal pains.

Body pains
Of course, prolonged sitting is not the most comfortable thing. Some muscles are compressed while others are tightened in some ways or the other. At the same time, some nerves — sciatic nerve for example — are compressed leading to muscle twitching and cramps, skin numbness and paresthesia. These often cause lots of pains.

Posture problems
The stress and strain associated with prolonged sitting tend to have cumulative negative effects on you, often leading to back pain in the short term and postural problems later in life. Furthermore, there is the issue of sitting posture and the vertebra disc degeneration with its attendant consequences. Prolonged sitting does predispose to chronic back pains as well as worsen the already existing conditions.

Increased risk of death
Certainly, with the association of prolonged sitting to increased risks of several chronic diseases like obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, and even certain cancers, it makes sense that it also associated to increased risk of death. Some studies are showing that people that sit for long hours each day have a higher risk of death than people that sit less.

Ways to minimize the dangerous effects of prolonged sitting
Clearly, the only way to minimize the dangers of prolonged sitting is by sitting less and being more active.

  • Avoid sitting for long hours in a stretch, take some break after say an hour.
  • In a bus or train, try to stand most of the time.
  • Increase your physical activity at any opportunity you get. This could mean taking the stairs instead of a lift for two or three floors, walking to the mall, standing to watch TV.
  • Make your working desk adjustable such that you can also work while standing.
  • Make daily workout a habit. Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. Daily exercise has been shown to reverse most of the side effects of prolonged sitting.

In conclusion, there are dangers associated with sitting. To avert these associated health risks, you have to acknowledge these risks and find creative ways to reduce the number of hours you spend each day sitting. Daily physical exercise of about 30 minutes each day is also a very necessary healthy habit.

Author's Bio: 

Emmanuel Ifeanyi Ekwomadu is a medical doctor and a writer who’s got a great passion for helping people enjoy healthy lives. He writes to enrich people with his compelling and educating articles on various health topics.

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