Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Updated on April 27, 2020
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A sedentary lifestyle has become the living standards of most American professionals. 

The absence of stress and the maximum comfort you get while frequently sitting and lying down at home or even at work amounts to addiction. While you get the comfort and luxury of time in being inactive, your body slows which unexpectedly affects your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Statistics show that an average American sits 12 hours a day. 65% of the American population usually watch television around 2 hours or more every day. Hence, the lack of physical activity causes 20% of the death of a person ages 35 and older. Cumulatively, 3.2 million Americans die due to physical inactivity. 

According to Dr. Nima Azarbehi, a Phoenix Varicose Vein Doctor, “Inactivity generally decreases all aspects of heart and lung health.  This includes vascular congestion and compromise leading to further chronic disease and poor health.”

An inactive lifestyle activates the health risks of obesity, heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and other chronic diseases.

What is a Sedentary Lifestyle?

The Sedentary Behavior Research Network (SBRN), a research organization designed to study the health impact of sedentary behavior, defines a sedentary lifestyle as the way of a person’s inactivity through sitting or lying down in a period.

Sedentary behavior consumes a little amount of energy in a person, which includes sitting or lying down while watching television or playing electronic games, driving a vehicle, traveling, studying, writing, or working behind a desk or computer.

What are the dangers of sitting? 

According to the study conducted by the World Health Organization, 69 to 85 percent of people across the globe have developed chronic diseases due to prolonged sitting. Prolonged sitting has caused the high rate of mortality, risk of cardiovascular diseases, the potential occurrence of colon cancer, lipid disorders, obesity, depression, and anxiety.

While more than 15% of American adults are physically inactive, a 19% higher rate of death from all causes combined links to the prolonged period of sitting (six or more hours a day).

Inducing Obesity

A study showed that a lack of physical exercise causes a significant decline in muscle integrity. Due to a lifestyle of physical inactivity, a person accelerates normal age-related changes such as loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and power. 

Obesity amounts to a sustained imbalance between the total energy intake (food intake) and the energy expenditure through resting metabolism and physical inactivity, according to the International Journal of Obesity. In other words, the proportion of decreasing energy intake and increasing body weight suggests the prevalence of obesity.

For instance, spending a prolonged time of sitting amounts to inefficient digestion. As a result, fats and sugars stock in your body without being converted as energy.

Leading to Poor Posture Syndrome

While sitting relaxes your body, it also induces stress on the muscles and discs of your back and neck. Prolonged sitting may leave your spine sore, stiff, and in pain. Prolonged sitting may cause restricted blood flow to your glutes and tightness of your hip flexors.

Poor posture leads to more slouching. Slouching often results in increased strain of the outer annulus of your disc.

The muscular components involved in poor posture syndrome are important supporters of your spine. Unless you often stand and stretch after a prolonged sitting, the pain you feel becomes a frequent occurrence and may lead to more serious problems.

Triggering Anxiety and depression

A cross-sectional study shows that physical inactivity is strongly associated with anxiety and depression. While the correlations between exercise, anxiety, and depression aren’t determined, stress is the major factor why a person loses his concentration and awareness as caused by muscular discomfort in a prolonged sitting.

Prolonged sitting and other sedentary behaviors cause your mind and body to create a vicious cycle such as tightness in your chest, muscle cramps, and a pounding pulse.

Your physical inactivity depletes the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and other serotonin levels that help in improving your concentration, motivation, memory, and mood.

Causing Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

The research conducted by the New York Department of Health shows that a less active and less fit person has a 30-50% chance of developing high blood pressure. 

Similar results from the study of the American Health Association suggests that physical inactivity caused 6% of coronary artery disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), 10% of breast cancer, and 10*% of colon cancer cases. As a result, physical inactivity accounted for over 5.3 million global deaths in the United States. 

Prolonged sitting and other sedentary behavior are linked to metabolic disorders, such as impaired glucose metabolism.

Stimulating Varicose Veins and Deep Vein Thrombosis

Prolonged sitting and restless legs syndrome causes the blood to pool in the leg, increase the blood pressure in the valve of the vein, and form a varicose. Varicose veins weaken the wall of the veins and damage the valves. 

Varicose veins are not considered a life threatening medical condition, however severe complications can lead to complex blood clots in the deep veins called Deep Vein Thrombosis. 

According to the Journal of Blood Medicine, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) leads to Pulmonary Embolism and other complications of pulmonary hypertension. For instance, blood clots in the lungs causes chest pain, trouble in breathing, sweating, and fainting. In the worst cases, DVT may cause death. 

Do you have varicose veins? Visit Elite Vein Clinic to find out about an effective, non-invasive treatment that gets you back up in running, in less than an hour!

How can you prevent the dangers of sitting?

There are a lot of ways to mitigate the risks and dangers of sitting. These ways are effective and efficient on a personal, social, or organizational level. 

Go for a Walk 

Walking has a lot of benefits. Medical experts suggest that walking for 30 minutes a day improves and maintains your overall health. 

For just 30 minutes of a walk, you can strengthen your bones, reduce excess body fats, boost muscle memory and increase cardiovascular fitness. Furthermore, it reduces your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Join Mental Health Exercises

Physical activity doesn’t have to be vigorous. Numerous well-designed studies suggest that increasing physical activity, including exercise and sports, is an effective way to elevate mood and reduce the symptoms of depression. 

Also, the science of mental health training like yoga, tai chi, and qigong increases mental state awareness and balance against anxiety.

Stretch and Break in the Workplace

At work, it is inevitable to be busy and focus on the 8-hour working hour shift. 

However, during breaks or meetings, medical experts recommend you stand up when 

you are talking on the phone, take the stairs instead of the elevator, move around and get up from your chair at least once an hour, and have “standing” meetings with co-workers. 

Key Takeaways 

Prolonged sitting and other sedentary behaviors increase the health risk of inducing obesity, leading to poor posture, triggering anxiety and depression, causing cardiovascular diseases, and stimulating varicose veins and its severe complications in the legs. 

What can you do to mitigate and prevent the dangers of sitting and other sedentary behavior? 

Simple. Go for a walk. Stretch and Break in the Workplace. Little things like that go a long way!


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