The ill effects of sitting for long periods of time on your body can largely be attributed to one thing: reduced blood circulation. When you sit behind your desk at your job for eight or more hours daily each week your blood circulation significantly slows to a point where your blood becomes more viscous. The increased viscosity reduces fresh blood to your muscles and organs. This causes a lack of fresh oxygen and nutrients to flow throughout your body. Your metabolism becomes sluggish as a result and organ function slows. In addition, neck strain from craning your neck forward while typing may cause an imbalanced cervical vertebrae. Sitting for long periods of time may cause uneven compression of your thoracic and lumbar vertebrae which in turn may damage your intervertebral discs. The result: unbearable back pain. Stiffness and tightness in your hips also tends to occur from spending too much time in a sitting posture.
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:
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."
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I'm a personal trainer who loves to help others fulfill their health and fitness goals. I consider myself a bodybuilder in that I live the lifestyle of eating healthy food, working out regularly, and sculpting my body.