come out claiming that sitting is as bad as smoking for our health, its almost hard to believe.
Sitting has become a normal part of our everyday culture. Millions of people have careers which involve a lot of sitting. From preschool through to university, we are taught that sitting many hours throughout the day is normal. It is also not uncommon for us to spend a few hours relaxing on the couch after a long day at the office. But, is it normal for us to sit so many hours of the day? No, its not. Our bodies are made to move. We have over 360 joints, and over 700 skeletal muscles to allow for easy fluid motion. Our blood and lymph depend on movement for proper circulation throughout the body.
Our sedentary habits may seem normal to us, because it is what we grew up with. But for two million years, our ancestors spent most the day foraging for food, hunting, moving, and walking. Up until a couple generations ago, we were very active.
But I workout at the gym everyday to offset my full day of sitting!
Apparently this doesn't matter. Although exercise is very healthy, researchers have found that working out does not offset the negative effects of sitting all day.
A study posted in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that adults who sat for more than six hours a day had a 40 percent greater risk of death over the next 14 years, compared to those who sat for less than three hours a day, regardless of whether or not they exercised. Their recommendation is to include physically activity, and reduce time spent sitting (1).
How Does sitting damage our bodies?
Most of us curve our backs and slump our shoulders when we sit for extended periods of time. This puts uneven pressure on our spine, causing strain, wear and tear on our spinal discs, as well as the ligaments, joints and muscles connected to the spine. When our back is hunched, the space in the chest cavity compresses, allowing little room for your lungs to expand into. This limits the amount of oxygen flowing into our lungs, and therefore through our blood.
Extended sitting also reduces blood flow to the brain. Our brain won’t function at top capacity when it is supplied with too little blood, carrying too little oxygen. Our focus and concentration will most likely dip, and brain activity will slow the longer we sit.
Sitting for long periods of time reduces the activity of lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme in the walls of our capillaries, that helps to break down fat in the blood. When the function of LPL is impeded, we do not burn fat nearly as well (2).
Too much sitting raises blood pressure, and decreases the diameter of our arteries. This combo increases our chances of developing heart and cardiovascular disease (3).
Excessive sitting can also raise the risk of bone fracture. Too much sitting decreases bone mineral density without increasing bone formation (4). Researchers have analyzed X-ray images of thigh bones from modern humans, and compared them to those from humans who lived thousands of years ago. They discovered that compared to our ancestors, “low levels of physical activity contribute to reduced bone strength, and consequently increased fracture risk, in contemporary human populations” (5).
What can We do?
We can incorporate more non-exercise physical activity into our daily life with these easy tips:
What about the kids?
one student with severe ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder], and this really helped him academically” (6).
I would like to hear from you
How have you incorporated more non exercise physical activity into your day? Have you noticed any benefits?
Lindsay Rusk, R.Ac., fmp
Lindsay Is a Registered Acupuncturist, Functional Medicine Practitioner, Health Investigator, Paleo Enthusiast, and Blogger.
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