How Prolonged Sitting Affects Your Health (And What You Should Do)

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How many hours do you spend sitting or lying down in an average day? Statistics show that the average U.S. adult is sedentary for 21 hours per day, meaning that most men and women only walk for about three hours per day. While there’s nothing wrong with sitting on occasion, prolonged periods of sitting that encompass most of the day can pose some pretty serious health risks.


Increased Pressure on Spine

You’re more likely to experience back pain if you sit for long periods at a time. Research shows that sitting compresses the spine — as well as its intervertebral discs —  30% more than standing. Over time, this pressure can cause inflammation, disc herniation and other back problems.


Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Prolonged sitting can even increase your risk of heart disease. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that women who sat for longer than 10 hours per day had a significantly higher risk of heart disease than their counterparts who sat for five hours of less per day. With heart disease taking the lives of more than a half-million Americans each year, this alone should be reason enough to incorporate more physical activity into your lifestyle.


Weight Gain

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that prolonged sitting can lead to weight gain. Your body is constantly burning calories, which is uses for energy. But your body will burn more calories when standing than sitting. According to a study cited by LiveScience, men burn about 0.2 calories more per minute when standing than sitting, whereas women burn about 0.1 more calories per minute when standing than sitting. The difference of burned calories may seem small, but it can add up over the course of a day. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important that you adjust your lifestyle to stand more and sit less.


Digestive Distress

People who spend the majority of their day sitting are more likely to experience digestive problems than their active counterparts. How exactly does prolonged sitting lead to digestive distress? When you sit, there’s more pressure placed against your body’s digestive system. Your stomach essentially compresses to reduce the rate at which waste passes through it. This can cause a myriad of problems, including constipation, heartburn and bloating.



Loss of Muscle Mass

Building and maintaining strong muscles requires using using and engaging those muscles. If you spend most of your day sitting, your muscles won’t be exposed to much stress. They’ll remain in a relaxed state, resulting in the gradual atrophy of tissue. On the other hand, standing and moving engages your muscles so that they develop bigger and stronger than before.


Loss of Bone Density

In addition to muscle mass, you’ll also lose bone density by sitting for long periods. It’s normal for our to bones to become less dense with age. Research shows that after age 50, the average person loses about 0.5% of his or her bone density per year. You can slow down this otherwise natural process, however, by standing and moving around. This places the weight of your body on your bones and joints, encouraging your body to build stronger bones so that it accommodate your weight. Regardless of your age, you should take advantage of this benefit by spending less time sitting and more time standing.


Increased Risk of Death

While the reason for this unknown, research has shown that prolonged sitting increases the risk of death by roughly 49%. This doesn’t necessarily mean that prolonged sitting will send you to an early grave. It will, however, increase your risk of a myriad of chronic diseases, which can indirectly increase increase your risk of mortality.


Reduced Blood Flow

Due to its compressing effects, sitting slows down the rate at which blood flows through your body. This means less blood — as well as the nutrients and oxygen within blood — will reach vital organs and tissue in your body. As blood circulates more slowly, it can lead to venous problems like the formation of spider veins.


Increased Psychological Stress

While most of the effects of prolonged sitting are physiological, some are psychological. Psychology Today notes that people who sit for long periods have higher rates of depression and psychological stress than their counterparts. Prolonged sitting changes the chemistry of your body, encouraging the production of cortisol (the stress hormone) while slowing down your metabolism in the process. The culmination of these chemistry changes can lead to psychological stress and anxiety.


You can avoid these health problems by adjusting your lifestyle to minimize the amount of time you spend sitting. Going for walks, taking the stairs, using a standing desk and exercising while watching TV are just a few tips that will help you achieve this goal.


Get your health back on track by minimizing the amount of time you spend sitting. To learn more about chiropractic and integrative medicine services, contact us today.

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