From grade school through college and beyond to professional careers behind computers, sitting for long periods has become the “norm,” especially with the enhancement and integration of technology into daily work. However, this typical requirement, the simple act of sitting all day, to get the job done comes with a not-so-pleasant reality.
Kevin Dalby, UT Austin professor, says that research shows how sitting for extensive hours directly relates to an elevated risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. With that in mind, Dr. Dalby sums up that sitting too long every day can damage both mental and physical health. How? Here’s the breakdown:
Physical Damages to Sitting All Day
Often referred to as “the new smoking,” sitting for many hours out of the day can take a drastic toll on the body. When diving deeper into human anatomy, the human body was created to stand upright, which is why the body functions more efficiently that way. When upright, a body’s heart and cardiovascular system, as well as bowel, functions best. Physical activity enhances endurance, energy levels, and muscle and bone strength. Sitting, inactive, and slumped on the opposite scale of being upright and active.
Sitting can cause muscles in the legs and gluteal to become weak and even deteriorate. Hips and back also can fall victim to sitting. Hip flexor muscles can shorten due to sitting, leading to hip joint problems. Poor posture while sitting does nothing good for the back as it can cause painful premature degeneration by compression in the spine’s discs. Other common issues from extensive sitting include heart disease, cancer, vascular trouble, and obesity.
Mental Damages to Sitting All Day
“The research behind the physical dangers of sitting are ample compared to the studies behind the mental effects. What we do know is that people who sit during the majority of their day have a higher risk of experiencing anxiety and depression,” said Kevin Dalby.
Physical activity brings an immense amount of positive benefits to one’s mental health. When sitting replaces physical activity, people miss out on the brain boosts physical activity delivers.
What to Do for Better Health
The truth is, many individuals cannot escape a long day of sitting due to school, the nature of a job, or even physical disabilities. An accurate conclusion for increasing health in light of sitting all day is to sit less. The less sitting or lying down one does during the day, the better chances for healthier living.
There are minor changes anyone can do to improve their health when sitting is unavoidable day-to-day. If physical abilities allow, taking a break from sitting every thirty minutes is a great habit to incorporate. During activities where sitting is usually a choice, such as talking on the phone or watching television, choose to stand, walk around, or stretch instead. For professionals who find themselves always meeting in a conference room, take a different approach and try walking with co-workers while hosting a meeting. Those looking for more considerable investments for long-term health should consider standing desks and treadmills for chairs to get the blood pumping while still getting typical “sitting” work done.
About Kevin Dalby
Dr. Kevin Dalby spends his professional time studying the mechanisms of cancer cell signaling to develop targeted therapeutics. Aside from pursuing his own cancer drug discovery research, Dalby also works in the College of Pharmacy, Department of Oncology at The University of Texas in Austin as a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry. Dalby is also co-director of the Texas Screening Alliance for Cancer Therapeutics. He helps give Texas scientists access to resources for drug discovery research as the principal investigator on a $3.9 million CPRIT grant.
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