What happens to your body when you sit all day?
This may be a question that millions of Americans with an office job frequently think of, especially when they start to feel lower back pain near the end of a working day. If you are one of the sedentary people, it’s time for you to realize the harm prolonged sitting can do to your body.
What it does to you
If not actively used and tightened, muscles on your back and legs begin to lose their power or ability to engage properly. Prolonged sitting leaves your muscles loosened, unless you consciously keep your core postural muscles slightly engaged.
Decreased blood flow
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, sitting for long periods can cause sluggish blood flow, especially in legs, which may lead to blood clots.
Intense lower back pain
I have frequent lower back pain after sitting for several hours. This may be the most common symptom for an office worker. After a few hours of sitting, your sacrum bone (the bone just above your tailbone) tends to shift position, stiffen, and cause discomfort.
Less oxygen produced
Your lungs have less space to expand as you breathe when you are sitting down. They cannot function properly or provide a healthy amount of oxygen to the rest of your body. You may experience lightheadedness, confusion, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath.
Increased diabetes risks
After just one day of prolonged sitting, those inactive muscles in your body have a harder time responding to insulin, the hormone that helps break down glucose for energy. When your body doesn’t break down glucose, your risk for diabetes significantly increases.
Research shows that the death rate of people sitting for 6 hours each day is 4 times higher than that of people sitting for 3 hours per day. That’s why prolonged sitting is called “the new smoking” — it harms your body just like smoking does.
What you can do
There are some easy stretches you can do to eliminate the damage of sitting.
Stand facing away from a wall with your heels about 1 foot away from the wall. With your arms over your head, elbows bending backward so that your palms can touch the wall, slowly lean back and catch your body weight with your hands.
If the position causes too much discomfort, you can try a light version by standing a little closer to the wall.
(Picture from: Prevention.com)
Lunge with rotation
From a standing position, take a big step forward with your right foot into a lunge. Make sure your right knee does not extend past your toes to protect your joint. Place your hands on either side of your right foot, and lift your right arm toward the ceiling and turn your body upward at the same time. Then switch sides and repeat.
Also, if this is difficult for you, you can put your left hand on your right knee instead of beside your foot.
(Picture from: Prevention.com)
Stand with your legs slightly wider than hip width. Reach your arms high in the sky with palms facing forward. Spread your fingers while rising high and stand on your toes to stretch the whole body.
Prolonged sitting can be harmful; however, you can take care of your body by standing up and doing some stretches every 30 or 60 minutes.