You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking, and there’s a lot of truth to that statement. There are some serious health dangers of sitting too long.
A meta-analysis involving over a million people studied shows that those who sat for eight hours throughout the day had a similar risk of dying as those who smoked or were obese. And this is where the sitting is the new smoking kind of came from.
There is a serious health risk that happens when we do prolonged sitting, and this because human bodies are built to move, the movement stimulates our breathing, it stimulates our circulation.
Blood flow and oxygen are essential to our health, and when we’re sitting for a long time, a lot of problems happen with the body.
The first one is the spine. The spine is this axis of our bodies, and what happens as we sit? There’s a little jelly layer in between each of the segments of our spines called our discs, and those discs get compressed.
When those discs compress, we often have nerve issues and back pain spasming muscles. The problem is with sitting is it increases disc pressure by up to 50%. It causes those nerves that exit out the side of the spine not to work as well and again, causing a lot of sciatic pain, back pain that so many people suffer with.
If we’re overweight that pressure on the discs increases to 300% a lot of pressure on those discs, which causes a lot of problems. But it’s not just the back pain issues with sitting – it’s also that’s actually affecting our metabolism.
If you look inside the arteries of our legs, we have an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, and what this enzyme’s job is to do is to break down fat and help our bodies use that fat and burn it for energy.
The problem is when we sit that lipoprotein lipase activity gets decreased by like 95%. It’s a dramatic decrease from the sitting, and it’s really because our bodies were built to move. We’re able to constantly be moving, and our leg muscles are postural, they’re built to have to be supporting our posture. When we sit for a prolonged period of time, lipoprotein does not work as well.
This is probably an underlying factor into why sitting is actually affecting some of these heart conditions, strokes, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.
So, we have spine issues, we have lipoprotein lipase issues, circulation does not work as well. And as we’re sitting, our bodies are really fueled by the heart pump, and our heart is meant to be pumping to circulate that that blood throughout this entire system and the movement of our leg muscles actually returns that blood from those veins in the legs back up to the heart.
That’s why if you ever fly in an airplane for an international flight or a long flight, they tell you to get up move your feet, flex your calves because they don’t want the blood to pull in the lower legs causing a clot like a deep vein thrombosis – something that can be potentially very dangerous.
The thing is when we’re sitting throughout our normal days, and we sit for 8+ hours, we’re getting a similar effect. Certainly, we’re not exacerbated by the altitude, but we’re not pumping that blood back up to the heart.
What happens when that blood’s not getting pumped up, oxygen’s not getting into that blood as well, so it’s not going to our brain as well. This whole circulation pump requires activity, particularly in the leg muscles, to get up and going.
This is from that research that showed that if you’re sitting for more than 7-8 hours a day, you get this increased risk of all sorts of different diseases and mortality. It showed that if you’re sitting for eight prolonged hours, it will take 60 to 75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every single day to offset those risks.
Daily activity can offset those risks, but prolonged sitting is such a serious problem for our health that it requires over an hour to an hour and 15 minutes of fairly vigorous exercise daily to offset the negative impacts of sitting too long. So, the key is to get up and break up the sitting.
You should get up every hour for two to three minutes to flex your calves, move to take some deep breaths through your nose, and get the circulation moving. That is going to really interrupt that prolonged sitting that is so dangerous for our spines our hearts, our metabolism.
So we need to get moving, especially if you feel like you’re a person who has a busy job and you’re sitting at work. You don’t have time to exercise then think about this concept of micro workouts.
The idea is you don’t need to spend an hour every day exercising you could do little three to five-minute chunks throughout the day. Let’s say every hour or every two hours, we do two minutes of jumping jacks and 25 push-ups and 15 to 20 air squats. You might have accumulated 15 to 20 minutes of exercise that you wouldn’t have normally done through prolonged sitting at the end of the day. Plus, you get the benefits of better circulation and better oxygenation.
In summary, the human body is not built for prolonged sitting. It’s bad for our spine, causes back pain, which makes us not want to move and exercise, is a vicious loop. It’s also bad for our metabolisms, we have that lipoprotein lipase activity that’s decreased, our circulation is not working as well as those leg muscles are not pumping it up, and we’re not breathing deeply.
If you are sitting for a long time, it’s not just the effects we talked about. It’s also the fact that what happens is the head goes forward, and we get stuck in this kind of tight position. This restricts breathing, the blood flow, and it makes us very tight and tense. So the solution is to get up and move even in micro increments – it’s going to help your health tremendously.