Home Health & Wellness Sedentary Lifestyle: The Risks of Being Sat Down for Too Long 

Sedentary Lifestyle: The Risks of Being Sat Down for Too Long 

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Sitting down for long periods of time can have a range of health consequences that can cost the NHS at least £700m each year. Sedentary behaviour, in fact, is behind £424m of spending on heart and cardiovascular disease and £281m on type 2 diabetes.

Of course, sitting down isn’t always a bad thing, especially for men on the porcelain. When standing, you activate the muscles in your spine and pelvis – but when sat, they are completely relaxed, allowing you to empty your bladder more effectively. So for 33% of Brits who always urinate standing, it might be time to tweak their habits.

That said, crawling up in a chair for too long carries a wide number of unknown risks for males and females alike, impacting both your physical and mental well-being. 

myGP, the developer of an app that facilitates healthcare access and orders repeat prescriptions, reveals all you need to know about the drawbacks to prolonged sitting and the advantages of standing up.

What are the health risks of sitting down all day? 

On average, adults of working age in England tend to sit down for 9.5 hours each day

The figure increases to 10 hours for those aged between 65 and 74, and escalates to 11 hours of sedentary time by age 75+.

As well as causing discomfort after a while in the lower part of your back, extended sitting can bring about many short- and long-term effects. 

Here is how such an innocent practice, like unwinding on the sofa, can be detrimental to your health if you persist. 

Back and shoulders 

When sitting on the sofa or at your desk at work, it is easy to fall into a slumped posture. 

Dr Leyland, Clinical Advisor at myGP comments: “Poor posture as part of a sedentary lifestyle can have a bigger health impact than you might imagine. Initially poor posture may just lead to aches and pains but having it longer term can cause real damage, for example wear and tear in your joints and compression of the discs in your spine which can all lead to more pain. Taking regular short breaks from sitting at your desk should be a part of your routine. “

Legs, hips, and glutes 

It is common knowledge that if you don’t practice your Spanish, French, or Italian, you’ll end up forgetting your vocabulary. Similarly, if you don’t use your leg muscles, you will lose them too! 

This is because if you are sitting down all day, you are not relying on your lower-body muscles to keep you up. In turn, this can weaken them and cause muscle atrophy, making it more challenging for your legs, hips, and glutes to stabilise you.

With decreased balance and stability, you may be more prone to falls and injuries. But one easy tip to nip the problem in the bud is to stand on one foot from time to time. 

This simple exercise allows you to recalibrate your brain, strengthening connections and coordination between your eyes, ears, muscles, and joints.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that commonly forms in the veins of the leg, causing throbbing pain and swelling. 

DVT is a serious condition, so it is vital to get in touch with your doctor immediately if you think you have it. In fact, when part of the blood clot breaks off, it can obstacle the flow of blood to other areas of the body, including your lungs, and lead to dangerous complications.

Excessive sedentary time, as well as other factors such as age, weight, and smoke, can contribute to DVT. So reducing the number of hours you spend sitting down can prevent this life-threatening health issue.

Heart and cardiovascular system 

Because humans are designed to stand up most of the time, the heart and cardiovascular system function better when you are on your feet.

Leading a sedentary life and sitting down for too long can lead to fatty material accumulating in your arteries. 

These blood vessels have the vital role of transporting clean blood around the body. If they get clogged or damaged, they can favour dangerous issues such as heart attacks or strokes.

So it’s fair to say that this is a good incentive to stay more active or – at work – invest in a stand-up desk to help the blood circulate more efficiently.

Brain 

Firstly, it is worth noting that – when sitting down all day – you are also minimising the amount of oxygen entering your body.

A sitting posture reduces the space for your lungs to expand, meaning they can’t be filled as much when breathing.

With less oxygen going to the brain, which is important for the production of our feel-good hormones (endorphins), prolonged sedentary can affect your mood and mental well-being. 

This is why it is essential for people of all ages to fit in much-needed doses of exercise in their daily routine. Getting out and about can work wonders on your mental health, especially if you are doing something you truly enjoy.

The benefits of standing up 

It is no secret that things such as walking, jogging, and running come with an infinite array of health benefits. But even the simple act of standing up can have favourable effects on your overall well-being.

For example, standing for three additional hours per day over the course of a year can help you burn up to an impressive 30,000 extra calories. To put things into perspective, that is the equivalent of running ten marathons.

All youngsters and adults should carry out some sort of physical activity on a regular basis. Generally, it is recommended that people aged 19-64 do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. 

If you engage in more vigorous activities, such as swimming, running, and sports in general, 75 minutes per week will suffice.  

As for senior adults over the age of 65, it is always wise to pair their weekly activities with muscle-strengthening exercises to maintain balance and flexibility. These might include anything from yoga and pilates to everyday chores such as carrying shopping bags and gardening (i.e., digging, shovelling, etc.).

Because standing up burns more calories than sitting down, it represents an easy way to limit weight gain. This can help keep at bay a number of health issues associated with excessive body fat, including heart and respiratory conditions.

Standing up can also favour blood circulation, meaning your organs can swiftly receive the oxygen and nutrients they need. 

This will improve your energy levels and, in turn, make sure you are happy and active at all times. 

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