In this era of globalization, a sedentary lifestyle has taken over our behavior in social life and our habits. This sedentary lifestyle has permeated our society. Communities have been designed in such a way that walking or biking is challenging. Slowly we chip away at our life expectancies and increase the risk of chronic illness. As a result, we are becoming more and more unhealthy, with skyrocketing chronic illness and obesity rates. As a society, we have almost normalized, and in some cases, we have glorified unhealthy living.
Before getting to the heart of the matter, you need to understand a sedentary lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle is characterized by little or no physical activity with energy expenditure close to zero; measuring the time spent in front of a screen, whether a computer or a television, is an excellent indicator of a sedentary lifestyle. It is also a lifestyle based on little or no frequency of travel.
Do you have the sitting disease?
Take a second to deliberate; how many hours in a day do you sit down? It begins right when you wake up: go to the bathroom, freshen up and sit to sip your coffee, or relax on the couch.
You head to your car on your way to work. You sit through traffic, and when you finally arrive at the office, you sit down. Come lunchtime, you head out and have a meal while sitting down. At the finish of the day, you sit down and relax at the pub or go home and have dinner.
The majority of people spend more than 70 percent of their time sitting down. Research suggests that some people spend well over 90% of their day sitting or sleeping.
Within lies the problem…
The human body is structured to move. Cells, bones, joints, and muscles all work together to help your body stay active, but anything in the body slows when you cease movement. It's like your body goes to sleep. Unfortunately, the slowdown translates to critical problems in the body over time.
The problems are so severe that they are literal life and death. The situation is so horrific that medical practitioners and researchers have recently coined "Sitting Disease.”
Sitting disease is the outcome of living a sedentary lifestyle. This lifestyle encourages obesity, cancers, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and many other illnesses. It is a disease characterized by remaining inactive or sitting down for many hours of the day, with little or no exercise.
The harm caused by our sedentary lifestyle has been years in the making. We’ve become a society of leisure-based, labor-saving, technological slugs, and it’s killing us.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle leads to damage at the cellular level. When you fail to move your muscles, they start shrinking and becoming weak in a process is atrophy. The weakness makes it harder to move about, and you have a higher risk of injury.
Moreover, when you stay inactive, your immune system weakens. The body releases natural chemicals and hormones when you move and exercise. The movement keeps your body's components not only strong but also healthy.
The moment you stop moving, your body stops releasing these hormones. This shortage can cause a weak immune system. Inactivity causes your cells and tissues to become inflamed. This is systemic inflammation, a common occurrence in almost all deadly human diseases. When your circulatory system becomes inflamed, your arteries start shrinking. This shrinkage causes high blood pressure, which can be very dangerous.
The plaque will gather inside your arteries, and you may end up suffering a heart attack, stroke, or even death. Your body will stop responding to signals to absorb sugars because your cells no longer need energy. The lack of movement will cause an imbalance in your blood sugar, and your body will reject insulin. This condition is a disease known as diabetes.
Here is how sitting all day can hurt your health.
Weight gain: Sitting all day means an inactive lifestyle, which leads to weight gain. Too much sitting lowers LPL (lipoprotein lipase) activity in the body, which decreases your body’s fat-burning ability. As a result, you will gain weight, even if you eat a low carb, Ketogenic diet.
Poor blood circulation: Sitting all day leads to poor circulation. Sitting all day interferes with blood circulation and causes blood to store in the legs and feet, leading to blood clots, swollen ankles, and varicose veins.
Heart disease: Your body burns less fat, and blood circulation is poor. As a result, fatty acids block the arteries in your heart. This can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular disease.
Weakened muscles: Sitting all day weakens and loosens the muscles in the body, especially those in the lower body and midsection. As they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So, sitting all day lowers your ability to run, jump and do other activities and can cause injury.
Diabetes: A study made by Asvold, Midthjell, et al. in 2017 shows a higher risk of diabetes in physically inactive people. However, prolonged sitting can increase your risk of diabetes.
Chronic body pain: Prolong sitting can cause chronic pain in your legs, hips, back, shoulders, and neck.
Brain damage: Sitting all day means your brain cannot get enough blood and oxygen. This can cause brain damage.
Anxiety and depression: Anxiety and depression can happen if you sit all day.
Studies suggest that prolonged sitting can increase your risk of specific cancer, including colon, uterine, and lung cancers.
Stiff shoulders, neck, and back: Because of sitting all day, your lower back, butt, legs, shoulders, and neck will also suffer.
Nobody wants to live with these problems. The good thing is that it is possible to either reverse or avoid these diseases with just a little attention and determination.
World Health Organization has raised the alarm on physical inactivity, identifying it as the fourth leading risk factor for premature death, behind high blood pressure, tobacco use, and high blood sugar. The good news for less physically active people is that it doesn’t take much to reduce the risk of death by sitting. For example, one study showed that replacing just 30 minutes of daily sitting time with light physical activity decreased cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. To me, that’s another example of “a little goes a long way.”
Awareness makes all the difference.
There will be days and weeks that you will sit down more than you want to. Do not sweat it. Sitting sickness takes time to recover. When you feel better, get back to your plans and continue with your goals.
The human body is incredible, and we can recover fast. But, in most cases, we can reverse most of the damage we have inflicted on our bodies.
Start today. Do not procrastinate or plan to start next week. Keep track of the amount of time you sit and start moving more. The more you drive, the better you feel, and the longer you live. The effort is worthwhile. So, stand up and start moving!
This activity can save YOUR life. How much is that worth?