Nowadays, a sedentary lifestyle has become a new norm. We tend to spend most of our time sitting on a couch. Our laziness, coupled with the nature of our work, has resulted in this extended sitting time. Lying down or sitting down with very little to no workout has become a way of living.
We spend most of our time sitting in front of screens on social media or binge-watching or playing video games. The work-from-home culture has also converted our work into sedentary jobs, involving long hours sitting in front of the computer.
Common problems associated with sitting all-day
According to various researches, sitting more than 8 hours per day can significantly increase the high risk of developing many diseases. Some of the conditions that can occur due to physical inactivity are:
- Weight gain: If we sit for a long time, our digestive system starts working slowly, and our body cannot digest the sugar and fat we eat. It leads to the deposition of extra fat in our body and ultimately gaining extra kilos.
- Impaired muscle strength: Sitting for a long time can weaken our legs and gluteal muscles. These muscles help in walking and stabilizing our body. Extended sitting time can also lead to wasting away of muscles. Muscle weakening and wasting away can make people fall while walking.
- Hip and back problems: Sitting for a long time causes shortening of hip flexor muscles, which causes the hip joint problem and hip pain. Sitting also causes pain in the back because of poor posture.
- Continuous sitting in front of a screen can cause neck and shoulder stiffness.
- Heart diseases: Many studies show a correlation between excessive sitting and heart diseases. Sitting continuously for long hours can cause increased cholesterol levels and poor blood circulation. It results in an increased risk of heart diseases in an individual.
- Bone health: Active lifestyle maintains bone health and stimulates bone formation. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weaker bones and increase the chances of osteoporosis.
- Diabetes: Inactive lifestyle like lying on the bed or sitting on a chair for a full day can cause increased insulin resistance in our body. It increases the chances of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Varicose veins: Prolonged sitting can cause more blood pooling in our legs leading to spider veins or varicose veins.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Continuously sitting for a long time can result in blood clot formation in the veins of our legs, which is known as Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT can be a life-threatening condition. The blood clot can break and travel to different organs, leading to many complications, such as pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism occurs when this blood clot reaches the lungs and causes lung and heart damage.
- Anxiety and depression: Sitting for a long time with limited physical activity can result in anxiety and depression in people.
- Cancer: According to some studies, prolonged sitting increases the risk for lung, colon, breast, and uterine cancer.
How to negate the effect of a sedentary lifestyle?
Lying as well as sitting for an extended time can deteriorate our health. To nullify the effect of a sedentary lifestyle, we have to start exercising and increase physical activity.
- Instead of taking bikes or cars for a short distance, we should walk or cycle.
- Substitute lift or escalator with the stairs. Stair climbing is a very convenient form of exercise and provides an array of health benefits like improving heart and lung function, blood circulation, bone health. It reduces the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. In case you have arthritis of the knee or hip, it is better to avoid stair climbing.
- In case of a history of health conditions like diabetes or hypertension, consult with a doctor before starting vigorous physical activities to prevent damage by unnecessary exercise. A doctor can tell us about those exercises most suited for us considering our medical conditions.
- Even at work, we have to be active. With some modifications during office hours, we can change our sedentary lifestyle into an active one. Try taking stairs instead of the lift, taking a small walk break after every 30 minutes, instead of putting a water bottle next to your walk to drink water far, and taking a lunch break away from the desk.
- If you stay more indoor than simple indoor exercises are good. Activities like swimming, dancing, yoga, squats, sit-ups, skipping rope, or pilates.
- Setting a timer for watching TV or web series can be a way to break the habit of binge-watching, thus preventing us from the ill effects of the sedentary lifestyle.
- Try to change the habit of sitting or lying while talking on the phone by walking to increase physical activity.
- We should also try to change our dietary habits for better health.
- Add healthy food items to your diet, avoid snacks and processed food, and cut extra sugar.
A slight modification in our lifestyle can prevent us from many health problems.
Dr. (Prof.) B.S. Murthy | Director & Senior Consultant – Orthopaedics, Spine Surgery | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi