Some people say exercising too much (or too intensely) at the fitness center is harmful to your health. Although that could be true in certain cases, there’s much more scientific backing for the reality that sitting too much can literally take years off your life.
Even if you exercise for one hour a day (more than the CDC0-recommended 30 minutes a day), following that up by sitting for more than 6 hours a day could still seriously impact your health and longevity. Don’t believe it? Statistics show that from 1980 to 2000, Americans’ exercise level stayed about the same, while hours of continuous sitting increased about 8 percent. During that time, the obesity rate more than doubled. To emphasize the dangers of sitting, here’s a brief rundown of what sitting for extended periods of time does to each area of your body and aspect of your health.
Your Brain: Blood Clots
Excessive sitting restricts the movement of blood and encourages blood clots to form throughout the body. Blood clots that form in the legs can eventually travel to the brain and cause a life-threatening stroke.
Legs, Neck and Lungs: Fluid Retention
Consistently sitting for extended periods of time also causes fluid to accumulate in the legs. At night, that fluid migrates to the neck, causing lingering neck pain and contributing to sleep apnea. Studies also show that fluid retention in the neck and chest area is one of the precursors to heart complications and even failure.
Blood Vessels: High BP and Hypertension
Because it increases the body’s blood pressure, sitting more than 6 hours a day places people at risk for hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases – again, regardless of whether we workout at the fitness gym daily.
Back: Pain and Injuries
Sitting places pressure on the spine, and could lead to spinal disc compression. This obviously means pain, but it could also cause injuries. Lower back muscles tight from the pressure of sitting are more likely to experience injuries from sudden movements in everyday life.
Health: Diabetes, Obesity, Heart Disease, Colon Cancer, Premature Death
A sedentary lifestyle is now linked to a doubled risk of both diabetes and heart disease. It also de-activates fat-burning enzymes in the stomach by 90%. Combined with the fact that calorie burning slows to an average crawl of one calorie per minute (depending on metabolism, of course), this greatly increasing the risk of obesity and colon cancer. Finally, sitting could even contribute to premature death. By examining telomeres – DNA strands whose length are linked to aging – a British Journal of Sports Medicine study shows that sitting more than six hours a day can potentially decrease an individual’s lifespan by up to 40%.
Don’t Worry – There’s a Cure
All of this might sound pretty scary, especially if you have a job that requires you to sit for 6 or more hours a day. The good news is that even changes as simple as standing more while you’re on the phone, or walking around the office a few times every hour or so, can negate these statistics. Find ways to stand and move around more during the bulk of your day so that, along with your fitness center workouts, you’ll be doing everything you can to life a fit, healthy, long life.