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Sitting 8 Hours a Day and the Impact on Your Health

Whether it is in front of the computer at work, behind the wheel on the way home or watching our favorite show later that night, sitting is a large part of our day, but it is taking a toll on our health. The average American sits 8 hours a day. That is quite a stretch of time when our bodies could benefit from movement, physical activity or even standing. This sedentary period of time, researchers have found, can increase our risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, cancer and even death. 

Back and Neck

Are you sitting right now? Take a look at your posture. Are you slumped over and leaning over? Did you realize you are overextending your shoulder and back muscles, which can lead to back pain? Poor posture for extended periods of time can lead to neck strain, an inflexible spine, disk damage, and even reduced brain function. Being sedentary for a long time slows the natural processes occurring with proper posture, such as the release of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals from the brain. An inflexible spine increases our risk of injury from every day activities, such as leaning over to pick something up or tying our shoes.

Muscle Atrophy

How many of your major muscle groups are engaged when you are sitting? They’re taking a break, right? From our abs to glutes and hips, sitting lets these muscle groups do little to nothing and it is not only bad for our physique, it hinders functionality as well. Ab muscles support your back. When our abs are not engaged or doing their job, our back is likely to suffer and can lead to changes in our spine’s natural arc, also known as hyperlordosis. When we sit our glutes soften over time, which impedes stability when standing and the ability to maintain a powerful stride.

Affects Organs

The longer we sit, the less fat we burn. Blood flow slows, allowing fatty acids to clog the heart more easily. Our blood pressure rises, along with cholesterol levels. The more we sit, the more our risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases. Sitting increases our risk of developing diabetes by having excess insulin in our system. Too much insulin, researchers believe, can also feed cell growth, causing colon, breast and endometrial cancers. When we are sedentary, our bodies are not able to fight off cancer-causing free radicals as easily as when we move.

Take Breaks from Sitting

Although we cannot avoid sitting altogether, we can take proactive measures to reduce the risk of sitting too much. Schedule breaks throughout the day to get up and move around – whether that is to talk to a co-worker down the hall instead of emailing or getting up just to wash your hands. Sit on a balance ball to help engage glutes and abs in the seated position. Stretching poses can help relieve neck and back strain. Try arching your back while on your hands and knees, then releasing. Multitask to reduce the time you sit. Instead of watching your favorite show from the couch, watch while you are standing and folding clothes or walking on a treadmill. Not only will you feel better, you will decrease your risk of developing major health conditions and improve longevity.