Chances are, you are reading this blogpost sitting down, just as I wrote this sitting down. Sitting has become such a norm in the workplace and at home. For example, we spend hours sitting behind a desk and then go home to relax in front of the sofa, sitting down. However, this simple action is doing more harm than good and goes against human beings natural behaviour as moving, agile creatures. Studies have found this sedentary lifestyle to be associated with fat deposition, decreased physical activity but positively associated with liver disease. So perhaps this habit is not as harmless as we all think.
Sitting, is good in small, brief doses as a way to recuperate and recharge the body. However, it is the prolonged lifestyles that many individuals find themselves in today, that the body is not built for – people should not be sitting more than they move in an average day.
In fact, the human body is designed with the specific purpose to move. Structures inside the body, are designed to encourage motion, allowing us to stand up straight and work against gravity. At the same time, blood in our body depends on movement for proper circulation.
However, by sitting at the desk all day, the body is unable to perform in the way it was designed to and at its optimal. The backbone of the problem is the body position that is often adopted when individuals sit at a desk. That is, slumped shoulders and a curved back, leading to uneven pressure and wear and tear on the body. Similarly by hunching over the desk, the chest cavity areas shrinks so the lungs have less space to expand. Alongside the squishing of soft tissue, blood flow to the lungs is reduced. The brain, needs oxygen and blood to stay alert. So accompanied with decreased blood flow is slowed concentration levels. Just like we carefully eat a balanced diet to fuel our body, the way we look after our body, in terms of body positioning, can also impact functioning levels.
Compared to more strenuous physical activity, such as running or biking, sitting at a desk, obviously uses less energy. However, sitting at a desk for prolonged periods does more than just slow energy usage – unhealthy metabolic changes occur too. Normally, the body burns 3 calories per minute when at rest, however, prolonged sitting temporality deactivates the enzyme in blood that breaks down fat so individuals burn a mere 1 calorie per minute.
How to combat prolonged sitting?
In order to alleviate some of the negative effects of sitting, is important to understand the body is not build for stillness, but rather motion. So by treating your body to small walks and breaks of about 5 minutes every hour, we can counteract the detrimental effects of sitting. This may involve setting a reminder on your phone to get up and move every hour. And maybe next time, before you send an email to a colleague in the same office, go and talk to them instead.
It is easy to neglect the impact sitting has on our overall wellbeing, however, when sitting is prolonged, it can be very harmful to the body. By scheduling periods of walking, to break up long periods of sitting, we can remove the negative effects of sitting – our bodies will thank us later.
Relationship of sitting time and physical activity with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Available here
Sedentary Behavior, Physical Activity, and Abdominal Adipose Tissue Deposition. Available here