15 reasons why sitting at a desk all day is bad for you

If you’re genuinely concerned a simple google search into the dangers of sitting and a sedentary lifestyle will result in hundreds of pages of content with advice extolling the dangers of excessive sitting. Many of the scientific papers coming out of universities and medical institutions are well-researched and highly respected. Problems arise when headlines are taken out of context by the media, grabbing readers’ attention and provoking controversy. These same headlines are often quoted and reused, especially if they’re designed to sell magazines, newspapers or blogs.

As with most things, a balanced view is always best. It seems that what really impacts on our long-term health and wellbeing is a general lack of physical activity and movement on a day-to-day basis.

As we see it the main problem is not sitting itself, but the amount of prolonged sitting that we’re doing for many hours every day. For many adults in the UK the average time spent sitting down is now about 9-10 hours a day. This includes doing work, watching TV, using a computer, reading, studying, and travelling by car, bus or train.

A good place to start for some sound advice is the NHS website. There is no hidden agenda, so overall the information found there can be trusted and taken at face value!

WHY WE SHOULD SIT LESS

Scientific studies have linked being inactive and sedentary to being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and early death.

Excessive sitting is believed to slow down the metabolism – which affects our ability to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure and break down body fat. Basically, when you sit for hours on end, you are using less energy than when you stand or move around.

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/why-sitting-too-much-is-bad-for-us/

The NHS stresses that there are limitations with current research, but this research is on-going, so new insights and information are being published all the time. We have to make up our own minds and come to our own conclusions, but doing research and being well- informed is definitely part of making better lifestyle choices. On an intuitive level, we know deep down that sitting for long periods is bad for us, because we’re designed to move. With this simple thought in mind, it’s encouraging to know that we can do something about it.

From our own online research, we’ve compiled a list of the top 15 reasons that we can find NOT to sit all day! It’s not an exhaustive list but as a guide it covers the general areas for concern. It may help you when doing your own research to kick-start your journey towards a healthier way to work, and a more active working lifestyle.

15 reasons why sitting at a desk all day is bad for you
  • 1. Your metabolism

    After 30 minutes of sitting, the metabolism slows down 90 per cent. The enzymes that move ‘bad’ fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. Increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels, all make up what is called ‘metabolic syndrome’.

  • 2. Muscles

    In a seated position, the gluteal muscles (‘glutes’) are completely inactive and the core muscles are less active than in a standing position.

  • 3. Insulin

    Sitting shuts down electrical activity in the legs, contributing to making the body less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that promotes the uptake of glucose.

  • 4. Cholesterol and fatty acids

    Sitting causes calorie-burning to plummet, and slows the breakdown of dangerous blood fats, lowering good HDL cholesterol. After 2 hrs this can drop by 20%. As your blood flows slower and your muscles are burning less fat, there’s a higher risk of fatty acids clogging your heart.

  • 5. Pancreas

    When sedentary, the pancreas produces more insulin, which can eventually lead to diabetes. The efficiency of your body when dealing with sugar is affected by how physically active you are.

  • 6. Cancer

    It’s believed that those who are sedentary are more at risk of various cancers, as the antioxidants in your body aren’t getting a boost from movement. These antioxidants are known to target potentially cancer-causing free radicals.

  • 7. Diabetes

    It isn’t 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. Some research says your risk of diabetes increases by a staggering amount.

  • 8 Tight Hip flexors

    Sitting for long periods can cause your hip flexors to shorten, your seated position can also hurt your back, particularly if you have bad posture or don’t use an ergonomic chair.

  • 9. Compression

    Long periods of sitting can cause compression on the discs in your spine, and this may lead to premature degeneration, resulting in chronic back pain.

  • 10. Stiff Shoulders, neck and lower back

    A seated position without good back support and with poor posture can put huge stress on back muscles, neck and spine. Being hunched over a desk with an extended neck for too long without moving will potentially cause problems. With this sort of static posture, combined with rounded shoulders, your neck and back can ache, become stiff and lose some mobility and flexibility.

  • 11. Restricted chest and shallow breathing

    With hunched shoulders and your neck craned forward, you’re likely to curve forward at the pelvis with a rounded back. This position can restrict your chest area and your capacity to breathe deeply into your lower diaphragm.

  • 12. Gluteal muscles

    By sitting all day, you’re not depending on your powerful lower body muscles to hold you up. This can lead to a general weakening of these large muscles. Without strong leg and gluteal muscles to stabilise your core, your body is at more risk of falling and injury, especially as we age.

  • 13. DVT

    Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in the legs. It can occur on long-haul flights, and the link here when compared to office work – is sitting for long periods of time without moving. 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.

  • 14. Osteoporosis Lifestyle choices

    The highly respected Mayo Clinic in America have this to say.

    “Some bad habits can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Examples include: Sedentary lifestyle. People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do those who are more active. Any weight-bearing exercise and activities that promote balance and good posture are beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful.”

  • 15. Mood

    If you’re sitting for extended periods, you’re missing out on activity and movement, and even if it’s moderate it will give your brain a hit of natural feel-food chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin. You’re also potentially missing out on opportunities to go outside for fresh air, which reduces the skin’s exposure to sunlight and may even result in a vitamin D deficiency.

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Using this information as a rough guide, our hope is that it will spur you into action by taking some simple steps to move more throughout the working day. By reducing the amount of time that you spend sitting down, even if it’s by an hour or two a day, you could make a significant and positive impact on your cardiovascular health for the future.

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