- Jasmine woods
Why Is Sitting Down So Bad For You?
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
The NHS reports that for able-bodied people, sitting down can be bad for your health. As we become a more sedentary society, the risks of extended periods of being sat down have increased. We may sit in front of a screen all day, and travel by car or bus rather than walk. In the evenings, we may sit and watch TV for hours, before retiring to bed.
What are the effects on our health of too much sitting?
Being inactive raises our risk of developing serious diseases, such as diabetes and even some types of cancer, the NHS advises. It can also slow down the metabolism, which can lead to high blood pressure and weight gain. Sitting too much may also lead to muscle weakness and pain.
A famous research study carried out on bus workers in the 1950s found that drivers were twice as likely to have a heart attack as conductors, who spent most of the day on their feet.
What are the effects on our spines of too much sitting?
Sitting puts extra stress on the muscles in your back and neck, and also strains the discs in your spine. Even sitting in the ergonomically correct manner, with the curve of your spine supported by the back of the chair, and your feet flat on the floor, can present risks for the longer you sit.
This is because it is almost impossible to avoid shifting and slouching in the chair the longer you remain seated. As we have not been evolutionarily designed to sit for long periods, the strain on the body can develop into chronic conditions, such as bulging spinal discs, and trapped nerves in the neck and shoulders.
The extra weight that is compressed onto the spine when we sit is bad news for the back muscles. The unnatural position also reduces the blood flow to your legs, meaning that you are more likely to suffer from cramps and aches and pains. Your hips may also become stiff and sore.
What can be done to prevent the damage caused by sitting?
Prevention is obviously better than cure. It can be quite simple to break up long periods of sitting, preferably every 30 minutes. Walk over to chat to a colleague instead of emailing, or just offer to make the tea, or stand during a phone call. You could also consider buying a sit/stand desk, which allows you to adjust the height, and work from a standing position.
How can I treat back and neck pain caused by sitting?
If you are experiencing frequent back and neck pain, which doesn’t go away after exercise, or made worse by it, you should seek medical advice.
You may be advised to try some form of massage therapy, which can help to unknot tight muscles. This is because when you develop a pain in the body, the muscles tighten around it to try and protect it, leading to increased stiffness and poor circulation. A professional massage session can help to alleviate these problems.
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