Do you spend long, uninterrupted hours in a seated position? It is time to seriously consider interventions as this simple and seemingly harmless activity can affect your health in more ways than one.
Of course, we are well aware by now that such sedentary behavior can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity. Spending a lot of time in this position can induce back and neck pain — especially when working at a computer, there is a tendency for the head to jut forward at a 45-degree angle which adds unnecessary strain to your muscles.
The lower half of your body is not any less susceptible to negative effects. The muscles in your legs and glutes go weak when you do not use them enough, raising your risk of injury.
There is also a reduction in blood circulation which could lead to mild symptoms like swollen feet or more severe complications like deep vein thrombosis, a potentially life-threatening blood clot.
Clearly, excessive sitting does not do much good for your body. But does it have much of an impact on the brain?
According to a preliminary study by UC Los Angeles researchers, it may reduce the thickness of a brain region which plays a role in the formation of memories. The finding meant that sitting less could be a potential intervention “designed to improve brain health in people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” they stated.
Movement helps fresh blood and oxygen reach the brain which is necessary to trigger the release of mood-enhancing chemicals, as noted by the Washington Post. This is one of the reasons why extended periods of inactivity are linked to an increase in anxiety and social withdrawal.
Over the years, studies have explored the elevated risk of chronic diseases tied to sitting too much, ranging from type 2 diabetes to colon, breast and endometrial cancers.
Most recently, in a study from UC San Diego, sedentary behavior was linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease among older women. It was noted that those who interrupted their sedentary time more often had a reduced risk.
As reflected in the latest physical activity guidelines, the bottom line is clear: the more movement, the better. Try to maximize the intensity of any physical activity when you are low on time, a tactic which is referred to as high-intensity incidental physical activity.
“When sitting seems difficult to avoid, try to find creative ways to interrupt it,” the UC researchers wrote in an article for the Conversation. “Opt for standing when watching TV, or maybe just during commercials. Take walks while talking on the phone. Pick up a new hobby that builds non-sedentary activities into your daily schedule, like gardening or yoga.”