You may have heard recent reports claiming that sitting is the new smoking. Could a simple act — one that our bodies naturally do — be as bad as the unnatural act of inhaling smoke into our lungs? It seems far fetched, but it turns out there’s reason to believe sitting really is the new smoking. Continue reading to find out whether you’re at risk of some of the chronic health problems closely linked to leading a sedentary lifestyle and sitting too long.
We are meant to be active
Modern living has changed the way we live in so many ways. One of these is how much we move (or don’t move). Our ancestors were constantly walking, running, squatting, lifting, etc., as part of their daily lives. But not us.
We sit in front of computers. We drive to work. We sit on couches and watch TV. Was our species built for such repose? Research says an adamant no. In fact, experts say we are sitting too long and it’s causing us to get sick and stay sick. They say we weren’t built to sit and lie down for long periods of time. We are meant to be active — like our ancestors.
Our organs function better when we stand
It’s a known fact in health circles now that our bodily systems and organs don’t function as well when we’re sitting compared to when we’re standing. The cardiovascular system pumps blood more efficiently, and the bowels remove waste more effectively. Think about how the sick and bedridden so often have issues with waste removal. Long periods of lying down and sitting too long contribute to poor bowel function.
Our muscles need activity
If we’re to move with grace as we age, our muscles need attention — every single day. Sitting too long accelerates bone and muscle loss. This leads to injury, strain, and even the inability to walk. Falling becomes more likely if our muscles and bones are weak. Our entire body atrophies the less we move and work it. Sitting for long periods contributes to this general atrophying — a recipe for poor quality of life.
Weight gain comes with a sedentary lifestyle
We all know obesity to be a cause of myriad diseases. It figures that sitting too long leads to weight gain. A sedentary lifestyle does nothing for weight loss. Neither does the way we use cars to get from point A to point B. If you want to avoid the inevitable weight gain that comes with sitting, you’ll want to consider investing in a standing desk. If this isn’t an option at work, stand up every thirty minutes or so to move and stretch your body. Take a walk around the office or outside during breaks.
Instead of driving everywhere, take a moment to plan your days so they are filled with movement. Can you walk or bike to work? What about during your lunch break? Are there errands you can run that don’t require a car? Not only is ditching the four wheels good for you, it’s also good for the planet.
Mental health deteriorates with too much sitting
Your mind needs your body to move frequently. Mental health is intricately linked to physical health. Plus, exercise produces mood-boosting hormones like serotonin. It makes sense then, that sitting too long causes depression and anxiety. Couch potatoes are typically less happy than their more active and athletic counterparts. Let’s not go down the road of indifference when it comes to physical activity lest we end up in the dumps.
Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes
These are three chronic illnesses we all want to avoid, but a sedentary lifestyle increases our chances of getting cancer, having heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Sitting too long really does increase our risk of most diseases, including these three major ones. The good news is, you can significantly decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes by getting more physical activity.
Postural health declines when you sit too much
It stands to reason that sitting at a desk or in a car all the time negatively impacts posture. Postural health depends upon a long spine, long neck, and elongated spinal discs. It’s really hard to maintain these things when you’re sitting all the time. Plus, most of us sit with really bad posture — shoulders hunched over, neck cramped into our shoulders, head leaning forward to scrutinize over a computer screen.
How can any of us improve our posture by sitting all the time? We can’t. What’s more, poor posture leads to back problems, hip issues, and premature spinal deterioration. All these issues lead to chronic pain, a truly unhealthy and unhappy way to live.
How to be more active
So, how do we increase activity and decrease the effects of the sedentary, modern day lifestyle? Here are a handful of options:
- Buy a standing desk, or make a DIY version by elevating your computer monitor
- Park farther away and walk the extra steps
- If you can leave the car in the driveway, do it
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
- Get creative at work by walking around the office or outdoors during your lunch break
- Stand up and go talk to a colleague instead of sending an email or a chat
- Plan a daily walk with a work colleague
- Walk or bike as often as possible
- Do exercise you really love — every day
- Limit TV time to one hour each evening
- Do squats and leg lifts in the kitchen while you’re cooking
- Keep a hand weight next to the couch to lift while watching TV. Or better yet, make a rule that you will watch your favorite shows only while on the treadmill at the gym
- Do yoga or stretch before bed
- Listen to more music that inspires you to dance around your bedroom when no one’s watching
There are so many ways to upgrade your activity level. Simply start paying attention to your sitting habits, and you’ll be inspired to make small, gradual changes.
At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss program is designed to work with your body and health needs, and address the underlying factors that often make weight loss difficult. Contact us today for your free consultation!