Sedentary behavior may cause multiple organ damage, promotes increased abdominal fat deposition and bodyweight, and lessens flexibility. The insidious part about this is that the effects occur slowly without us knowing the extent of the damage that's occurring until it's too late. Heart disease may occur from sluggish blood flow and the buildup of fatty acid deposits which may clog the heart. Symptoms of this scenario include elevated blood pressure and cholesterol. Type-2 diabetes may occur from your body's inability to produce enough insulin from your pancreas to metabolize a buildup of glucose in your blood caused by lack of exercise. Symptoms from high blood sugar may include increased hunger, thirst, urination, fatigue, dizziness, and weight loss. Excess insulin within your blood may promote carcinogenic cellular growth, increasing your risk of colon, breast and/or endometrial cancer. Lack of exercise and poor posture causes anterior and posterior muscles to become weak and tight, respectively (i.e., abdominal muscles are weakened and back muscles become tight which causes more slumping in your chair). Chronic slumping will cause hyperlordosis or swayback. Hip flexor muscles become tight due to chronic flexion which causes shortening of these muscles, limiting hip extension. Swollen ankles and blood clots may occur from sluggish blood circulation as a result of sitting too much. Your bones, which are composed of living tissue, become less dense and weak as a result of a lack of weight-bearing activities. Weakened and soft bones increases your risk of osteoporosis.
So what can you do to counteract the adverse health effects of sedentary behavior? It's obvious. You need to get up and move around more often. Here are some suggestions to get you started in the right direction:
- Set an alarm from your computer or phone that goes off every 30 minutes to remind you to get up and move around
- Stand when eating lunch or making phone calls
- Stand behind your desk
- Get a treadmill desk
- Get a FitBit device to wear and track your activity level (e.g., number of steps taken daily)
- Perform hip exercises (e.g., wide-stance squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc.) to stretch and strengthen the hip muscles
- Stretch your hip flexors, ITB, gluteals, and hamstrings
- Use a foam roller to work on those tight hip muscles (e.g., hip flexors, gluteals, hamstrings, ITB, etc.)
- Perform leg swings (i.e., front-to-back, side-to-side)
- Imagine you're a baseball catcher and perform a frog squat by squatting down as low as possible and push your elbows between your legs--maintain this posture for up to 30 seconds
- Perform a supported pigeon pose by placing one leg in an externally-rotated position onto a box or table
- Perform a box hip flexor stretch by kneeling back onto a box
- Perform gluteal strengthening exercises (e.g., lying hip thrusts, clamshells, fire hydrants, etc.)
BOTTOM LINE: You've got to move your body more often in order to prevent sluggish blood circulation, lessen abdominal fat deposition and increased bodyweight, and feel more energized. Some form of resistance training with weights is recommended in order to maintain muscle mass to prevent increased bodyweight from fat. Lifting weights will prevent the risk of frailty and therefore allow you to live an independent life as you get older. Resistance training also helps to maintain your strength and lessens the risk of osteoporosis. By moving, you'll lessen your risk of incurring the life-style related diseases that plague industrialized societies (e.g.., heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.).
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."