They do not call it a disease for nothing. Here is how being sedentary can shorten your life — and what you can do about it.
It hurts your heart
Scientists first noticed something was up in a study that compared two similar groups: transit drivers, who sit most of the day, and conductors or guards, who do not. Though their diets and lifestyles were a lot alike, those that sat were about twice as likely to get heart disease as those that stood.
Dementia is more likely
If you sit too much, your brain could look just like that of someone with dementia. Sitting also raises your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, which all play a role in the condition. Moving throughout the day can help even more than exercise to lower your risk of all these health problems.
You will undo all that exercise
The effects of too much sitting are hard to counter with exercise. Even if you work out 7 hours a week — far more than the suggested 2-3 hours — you cannot reverse the effects of sitting 7 hours at a time. Do not throw away all that hard work at the gym by hitting the couch for the rest of the day. Keep moving!
Your odds of diabetes rise
You are more likely to have diabetes if you sit all day. And it is not only because you burn fewer calories. It is the actual sitting that seems to do it. It is not clear why, but doctors think sitting may change the way your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that helps it burn sugar and carbs for energy.
You could get DVT
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a clot that forms in your leg, often because you sit still for too long. It can be serious if the clot breaks free and lodges in your lung. You might notice swelling and pain, but some people have no symptoms. That is why it is a good idea to break up long sitting sessions.
It wrecks your back
The seated position puts huge stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine. It is even worse if you slouch. Look for an ergonomic chair — that means it will be the right height and support your back in the proper spots. But remember: No matter how comfortable you get, your back still will not like a long sitting session. Get up and move around for a minute or two every half hour to keep your spine in line.
It leads to varicose veins
Sit for too long and blood can pool in your legs. This puts added pressure in your veins. They could swell, twist, or bulge — what doctors call varicose veins. You may also see spider veins, bundles of broken blood vessels nearby. Your doctor can tell you about treatment options if you need them.
Your cancer risk goes up
You may be more likely to get colon, endometrial, or lung cancer. The more you sit, the higher the odds. Older women have higher odds of breast cancer. That does not change if you are super-active. What matters is how much you sit.
How to take a stand
Work more movement into your day: Stand up and stretch every half hour or so. Touch your toes. Take a stroll around the office. Stand at your desk for part of the day. Get a desk that raises or make your own: set your computer on top of a box. All these things can help stop the negative effects of uninterrupted sitting and keep you on the road to good health.