By this point, we all know that sitting all day can cause huge health problems. What are those problems exactly though? What can we do to negate those risks? Is exercising at the end of the day enough to fix the problem?
Unfortunately, those workers who exercise daily aren’t undoing the damage caused by hours in the office chair.
Researchers have found that the key determinant of many health risk factors is simply the number of hours spent sitting. Exercising for an hour every day won’t undo the damage caused by sitting for twelve. For many, the effects of sitting will be small at first. From aches to low back pain, our body has natural systems for reminding us of these unnatural postures.
For women especially, wider hips can lead to more pressure exerted on the hips, knees, and spine, leading to even more pain. With enough hours in the chair, that pressure can cause weakness or even tendinitis. Sitting for long periods of time can also lead to varicose vein development.
More time in the chair also means fewer calories burned. As if inactivity wasn’t enough, research has also found that sitting can actually suppress the production of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that is essential to turn bad cholesterol into good cholesterol. Researchers have also found that increased time sitting can lead to insulin resistance, as well as higher cases of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
With those effects, it’s no surprise that sitting is a primary cause of up to 27 percent of cases of diabetes according to the World Health Organization.
While pain and weight gain may be obvious side effects for anybody who already sits all day, there are far more extreme health risks for sitters.
In the same way that society slowly learned about the effects of smoking, today researchers are just beginning to understand the many health risks associated with long periods of sitting.
Sitting may not only hurt your waistline, it could be a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, and even early death.
Researchers in New South Wales found longer periods of sitting were related to increased risks of dying prematurely. This held true even for individuals who engaged in regular exercise. The same risk factors were found even after controlling for factors like age, personal habits, and physical activity levels.
According to the research, adults who sat for more than 11 hours a day had a 40 percent increased risk of dying within three years. For those who sat between 8-11 hours a day, the risk was up 15 percent.
Chronic diseases are also much more prevalent in individuals who sit for prolonged periods of time, with the percent of chronic diseases reported increasing right alongside time spent sitting. For individuals who sat for less than four hours a day, their chances of having a chronic condition were much lower.
Sitting has also been indicted as causing up to 43,000 cases of colon cancer and 49,000 cases of breast cancer according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. For heart health, sitting has been shown to increase blood pressure and decrease the diameter of the arteries. In all, the World Health Organization estimates that 30 percent of cases of ischemic heart disease are caused by physical inactivity.
Even though everyday exercise may not entirely negate the hours spent sitting in a chair, it is a start.
Along with consistent exercise, many studies recommend simply getting up out of the chair and working at a standing or treadmill desk. Even taking five minutes every hour for a quick walk around the office can help negate some of the health risks associated with sitting.