Get Up and Move: 5 Health Issues Associated With Too Much Sitting

The majority of people are aware of how regular exercise helps you lose weight, stay in shape, and just live a healthy lifestyle in general, but they may not be aware of how dangerous it is to sit for long periods of time— even if you’re eating healthy.

Get Up and Move: 5 Health Issues Associated With Too Much Sitting
[image: pexels by philip ackermann]

Getting little to no physical activity every day is called being sedentary, but it’s possible to be physically active every day by just doing regular tasks, such as walking, cleaning your home, and doing yard work. However, you’re still at a higher risk for certain health problems if you spend a lot of time sitting or lying down— even if you do exercise every day. Here are some common health issues associated with too much sitting.

#1: Weaker Bones and Muscles

Sitting too much has the ability to weaken bones and muscles, especially as we age. Our bones, muscles, and even joints naturally become weaker as we get older, and this is made even worse if we’re living sedentary lifestyles. In fact, regular exercise can help strengthen our bones, joints, and (of course) our muscles. 

It may not seem like a big deal to have weak muscles, joints, or bones, but weak joints and bones can be especially dangerous to our health. Osteoporosis (also known as brittle bone disease), is caused by three major risk factors:

1. Estrogen deficiency in women

2. Calcium deficiency

3. An inactive/sedentary lifestyle

Osteoarthritis (the breakdown of cartilage around the joints) can also be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, and both osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are known to cause chronic pain in those that suffer from either.

#2: Stroke

Several studies have found that long periods of sitting increases one’s chances of having a stroke. Little physical activity combined with eight or more hours of continuous sitting can increase the risk of stroke by four to seven times. The somewhat good news is that prolonged sitting paired with regular exercise still increases your risk of stroke, but not as much as prolonged sitting paired with no exercise. It seems that exercising after a long day of constantly sitting at work slightly reduces your risk of stroke, compared to coming straight home to watch TV on the couch.

#3: Heart Disease

Heart disease, including high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol, are increased by constant sitting. When our bodies are moving, they’re burning energy and fat, and our blood is flowing. The opposite occurs with prolonged periods of sitting, and slower blood flow can lead to both high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Our bodies also create an enzyme that turns bad cholesterol into good cholesterol when we’re active, and this doesn’t happen when we’re inactive for too long.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol contribute to heart disease in the same way smoking does. In fact, some experts consider sitting to be the new smoking.

#4: Diabetes

Studies have also shown that those who sit for long periods of time every day are at an increased risk of developing diabetes— even if they exercise. Too much sitting results in changes to your body’s metabolism, which can make you resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is known to lead to Type 2 Diabetes, the most common type in adults, and is also increasing in children.

#5: Bed Sores

This typically only happens in extreme cases, where a person is sitting the majority of the day with little to no movement. What happens is that blood flow is restricted to a certain part of the body (typically the buttocks, tailbone, backs of knees, ankles, and heels), causing the skin to die. Bedsores can become so severe as to develop into an open wound and can become infected, causing more serious health issues.

Unfortunately, bed sores are common in nursing homes. This is because many nursing home patients are sedentary and can only be moved with the help of an aide. When aides neglect these patients, bed sores are more likely to form.

Most jobs require their workers to sit eight, 10, or even 12 hours a day. Health-conscious individuals may even try to hit the gym after work, but if they’re continuously sitting throughout the workday, they’re still at an increased risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Health professionals recommend standing desks, standing meetings, and even standing during lunch breaks. It’s also helpful to get up every 30 minutes and move or walk around.

Your risk factors for a number of these health issues can already be increased if you’re overweight or if you have a family history of any of these illnesses. Try to get up and move as much as you can, and also try to exercise regularly— even if it’s light exercise.

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