Whether it’s at the office, in the car or on the sofa, more and more Americans are sitting for significant periods of the day. Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle combined with a lack of exercise has consequences. Here are a few ways that prolonged sitting can impact your health.
Increased diabetes risk
According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are estimated to cause about 27 percent of diabetes cases. Chronic high blood sugar is a risk factor for diabetes, and preliminary evidence has linked prolonged sitting with increased blood sugar.
Sitting has been linked to weight gain in multiple studies. One recent study found that prolonged sitting was a predictor of weight gain in Australian women, even after adjusting for diet and physical activity. Consider taking frequent breaks from the chair or sofa to stretch and walk around.
Weakened immune system
Exercise has been associated with improved immune function, and emerging research suggests that the inverse may also be true. Physical inactivity was linked to an increased risk of infection and more severe symptoms requiring hospitalization.
Impact on heart health
Sitting may take a toll on your heart. One study found that adults who spent the most time in front of a TV or computer had a 125 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events. Sedentary time is also associated with increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which affect the risk of stroke.
According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is estimated to be the main cause of 21 to 25 percent of breast and colon cancers. Acknowledging some limitations, an Australian study using data from over 60,000 adult males found a strong link between sitting time and cancer.
Increased death risk
Physical inactivity ranks as the fourth leading risk factor for death. Regardless of exercise levels, prolonged sitting has been linked to increased risk of death from cancer (37 percent for women in one study) and cardiovascular disease (64 percent for men in another study).
Symptoms of some health conditions can be triggered by prolonged sitting. Sensations of restless legs syndrome often occur while sitting for extended periods of time. Additionally, people with ADHD may feel restless and inattentive while having to sit still during school or work.
May worsen symptoms of other conditions
Rheumatoid arthritis causes symptoms, such as pain and fatigue, that make it hard to stay active. Unfortunately, prolonged sedentary behavior can increase fatigue and decrease muscle strength and joint stability. Talk to your doctor if you have a condition that causes you to remain inactive.
Anybody can be at risk
The combination of desk jobs, driving and forms of sedentary entertainment puts many Americans at risk of prolonged sitting. Additionally, research suggests that exercise may not fully counteract the effects of sitting. Conditions such as MS can also make it difficult to break up sedentary habits.
Establishing bad habits for children
Childhood habits often carry over to adulthood. Between school, homework and time spent watching TV or on the computer, kids are at risk of sitting for too long each day. Even with physical activity, sedentary behavior and screen time among children have been linked to metabolic syndrome.
What you can do
Breaking up prolonged sitting with a short walk or stretching has been shown to improve waist size. Consider getting a standing desk for work or visiting coworkers instead of emailing. It also can help to take the stairs whenever possible and to exercise while watching TV.
Source: Daily Rx
Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD