We’ve all heard the saying “Sitting is the new smoking,” but have you ever wondered what exactly happens to your body when you spend eight hours a day planted in a chair? Prepare to be surprised. It turns out that sitting for extended periods of time can have a detrimental effect on your health, ranging from poor posture and weakened muscles to increased risk of chronic diseases. So if you want to know the shocking reality of a sedentary lifestyle, keep reading. You might just think twice before settling down for that eight-hour Netflix marathon.
What Happens To Your Body When You Sit For 8 Hours A Day?
Table of Contents
Lower back pain
Sitting for long periods can put a strain on our lower back, leading to discomfort and pain. When we sit for extended periods, the muscles in our lower back can become weak and tight, causing them to become easily fatigued and more prone to injury. This can result in chronic lower back pain, which can significantly impact our daily lives and overall well-being.
Muscle stiffness and tightness
Another consequence of sitting for long hours is muscle stiffness and tightness. When we sit for extended periods, our muscles can become stiff and inflexible, making it challenging to move or perform physical activities. This can lead to muscle imbalances, where certain muscles become overly tight while others weaken. Over time, this can increase the risk of muscle strains and injuries.
Sitting for prolonged periods can also contribute to poor posture. When we sit for hours on end, it is common to slouch or hunch over, straining our neck, shoulders, and upper back. This can result in a rounded shoulder posture, forward head position, and an imbalanced spine alignment. Poor posture can not only cause discomfort but also lead to musculoskeletal issues such as neck pain, shoulder pain, and even headaches.
Weak and tight hip flexors
Sitting for long hours can cause our hip flexor muscles, located in the front of our hips, to become weak and tight. These muscles play a crucial role in hip mobility and proper posture. When they become tight, they can pull our pelvis forward, causing an anterior pelvic tilt. This can lead to various issues, including lower back pain, poor posture, and altered walking mechanics.
Reduced bone density
Prolonged sitting can also have a negative impact on our bone health. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking or standing, help stimulate bone remodeling and maintain bone density. When we sit for extended periods, we lose out on these weight-bearing activities, which can result in reduced bone density over time. This can increase the risk of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones, making them more prone to fractures.
Increased risk of osteoporosis
As mentioned earlier, prolonged sitting can lead to reduced bone density, which in turn increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that predominantly affects older adults, especially women, and can have severe consequences. It not only increases the likelihood of fractures but can also result in significant pain, limitations in mobility, and a decreased quality of life. Therefore, taking steps to reduce sitting time and engage in weight-bearing exercises is essential for maintaining healthy bones.
Reduced blood flow
Sitting for long periods can significantly decrease blood flow throughout our bodies. When we sit, our muscles are inactive, and this inactivity can cause blood to pool in our lower extremities. Reduced blood flow can lead to various cardiovascular issues, including the formation of blood clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and varicose veins.
Increased risk of heart disease
Sedentary behavior, such as sitting for extended periods, has been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease. The lack of physical activity can contribute to various risk factors associated with heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, and insulin resistance. Incorporating regular exercise and reducing sitting time can help mitigate these risks and promote cardiovascular health.
Higher blood pressure levels
Sitting for long periods can result in higher blood pressure levels. When we sit, our heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, as compared to when we are in an upright position. This increased workload on the heart can lead to higher blood pressure levels, which, if left unchecked, can increase the risk of developing conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Sitting for prolonged periods can impair circulation in our lower extremities. When we sit, blood flow to the legs and feet becomes restricted, resulting in a sluggish circulation. Poor circulation can lead to various issues, including swollen ankles and feet, varicose veins, and an increased risk of blood clots. Moving and stretching regularly throughout the day can help improve circulation and reduce these risks.
Extended periods of sitting can have a negative impact on our metabolism. When we sit for long periods, our metabolic rate decreases, meaning our bodies burn fewer calories. This can contribute to weight gain over time and make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. Slower metabolism can also affect our body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels and utilize insulin effectively.
Sitting for prolonged periods is closely associated with weight gain. When we sit, we burn fewer calories compared to when we are in motion. Additionally, sitting for long hours may lead to mindless snacking or unhealthy food choices, further contributing to weight gain. The accumulation of excess weight can increase the risk of various health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Increased risk of diabetes
Sedentary behavior, such as sitting for prolonged periods, has been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. When we sit, our muscles become less responsive to insulin, leading to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when our cells do not efficiently use insulin to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. Over time, this can lead to the development of diabetes.
Higher levels of bad cholesterol
Extended sitting has been associated with higher levels of bad cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known as “bad” because elevated levels can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis and an increased risk of heart disease. Engaging in physical activity and reducing sitting time can help regulate cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
Sitting for long hours can lead to sluggish digestion. When we sit, our abdominal muscles become inactive, which can slow down the movement of food through the digestive system. This can result in constipation, bloating, and discomfort. Additionally, sitting for extended periods may lead to poor eating habits, such as consuming processed foods or excessive snacking, which can further impact digestion.
Prolonged sitting can increase the risk of constipation. Inactivity and insufficient physical movement can result in a slowed-down bowel function, making it harder for waste to move through the digestive tract. This can lead to infrequent bowel movements, difficulty passing stools, and discomfort. Incorporating regular physical activity and maintaining a fiber-rich diet can help promote regular bowel movements and alleviate constipation.
Increased risk of colon cancer
Research suggests that sedentary behavior, including sitting for long periods, is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. Prolonged sitting can contribute to various factors that may increase the likelihood of developing this type of cancer, such as sluggish digestion, reduced blood flow to the digestive system, and increased inflammation. Regular exercise, combined with reduced sitting time, can help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Loss of muscle mass
Sitting for extended periods can lead to the loss of muscle mass, a condition known as muscle atrophy. When we are inactive, our muscles are not being used, and this lack of activity can cause muscle fibers to break down. Over time, this can result in muscle weakness, fatigue, and decreased functional abilities.
Increased risk of muscle atrophy
Muscle atrophy is a significant concern associated with prolonged sitting. Inactivity and lack of movement can cause our muscles to weaken and lose their strength and function. This can increase the risk of muscle atrophy, a condition where muscle tissue wastes away. Muscle atrophy can have detrimental effects on our overall health and mobility, making even simple tasks challenging.
Decreased muscle strength
Sitting for long hours can result in decreased muscle strength, especially in the lower body. When we sit, the muscles in our legs and glutes remain inactive, leading to muscle weakness. This can have a significant impact on our ability to perform activities such as walking, climbing stairs, or standing up from a seated position. Regular exercise, including strength training, can help prevent muscle weakness and maintain muscle strength.
Mental Health Effects
Decreased cognitive function
Extended sitting can have negative effects on our cognitive function. When we sit for prolonged periods, blood flow and oxygenation to the brain are reduced, impairing cognitive function. This can lead to difficulties with memory, attention, and concentration. Additionally, prolonged sitting is associated with a sedentary lifestyle, which has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Higher levels of stress and anxiety
Sitting for long hours is often associated with sedentary activities, such as working at a desk or watching TV, which can contribute to higher stress and anxiety levels. Engaging in physical activity helps release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, while also reducing stress hormones like cortisol. Incorporating regular exercise and taking breaks to stretch and move throughout the day can help manage stress and improve mental well-being.
Increased risk of depression
Research suggests that sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk of depression. Prolonged sitting can lead to decreased physical activity and social interaction, both of which are important factors in maintaining good mental health. Engaging in regular exercise, taking breaks to move, and incorporating social activities can help reduce the risk of depression and improve overall mental well-being.
Stiff and sore joints
Sitting for long hours can contribute to joint stiffness and soreness. When we sit, our joints, especially in the hips and knees, remain in a flexed position for an extended period. This lack of movement can cause joint stiffness and discomfort. Additionally, prolonged sitting can lead to muscle imbalances and weak supporting muscles around the joints, further exacerbating joint problems.
Increased risk of arthritis
Sedentary behavior, such as sitting for extended periods, has been linked to an increased risk of developing arthritis. Arthritis is a condition characterized by joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Sitting for long hours can contribute to joint issues, such as decreased joint lubrication, increased stress on the joints, and muscle imbalances, all of which can increase the risk of arthritis. Regular exercise and reducing sitting time can help promote joint health and reduce the risk of developing arthritis.
Prolonged sitting often involves staring at a computer screen or other digital devices, which can cause dry eyes. When we focus on digital screens for extended periods, we tend to blink less frequently, leading to decreased tear production and dryness. This can result in discomfort, redness, and a gritty feeling in the eyes. Taking breaks to rest our eyes and practicing the 20-20-20 rule (looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes) can help alleviate eye strain and dryness.
Excessive screen time associated with prolonged sitting can also contribute to blurred vision. Staring at a screen for long periods can cause the muscles that control our eye focus to become fatigued, resulting in blurred vision. Taking regular breaks and practicing eye exercises, such as focusing on distant objects, can help prevent and alleviate blurry vision.
Eyestrain is a common occurrence when sitting for prolonged periods in front of screens. It is characterized by symptoms such as eye fatigue, headaches, and difficulty focusing. Factors contributing to eyestrain include excessive screen brightness, poor lighting conditions, improper screen positioning, and lack of breaks. Adjusting screen settings, ensuring proper lighting, and taking regular breaks to rest our eyes can help reduce eyestrain and prevent long-term eye problems.
Impaired Brain Function
Reduced brain activity
Sitting for long periods can lead to reduced brain activity. When we sit, blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain decrease, impacting cognitive function. Reduced brain activity can result in decreased alertness, impaired memory, and a decline in overall brain performance. Engaging in physical activity and taking breaks to move and stretch throughout the day can help enhance brain activity and optimize cognitive function.
Extended sitting can contribute to a foggy thinking sensation, where our cognition feels sluggish and unclear. This can make it difficult to concentrate, problem-solve, or perform tasks that require mental clarity. Foggy thinking can impact productivity, mood, and overall cognitive performance. Regular exercise and incorporating movement breaks can help improve blood flow and oxygenation to the brain, alleviating the foggy thinking sensation.
Sitting for long hours without breaks can contribute to poor concentration and difficulties with focus. When we sit for extended periods, our brains may become fatigued, resulting in decreased concentration abilities. This can make it challenging to stay engaged, complete tasks efficiently, and retain information. Taking regular breaks to stretch, move, and engage in physical activity can help increase alertness, improve concentration, and enhance overall cognitive function.
Swollen ankles and feet
Prolonged sitting can lead to poor circulation in the lower extremities, resulting in swollen ankles and feet. When we sit, blood flow to the legs and feet is restricted, causing fluid to accumulate in the lower body. This can lead to discomfort, swelling, and a heavy sensation in the legs. Taking breaks to stand, stretch, and perform ankle and foot exercises can help improve circulation and reduce swelling.
Sitting for long periods can increase the risk of developing varicose veins. Varicose veins are enlarged and twisted veins that are visible under the skin. Prolonged sitting, combined with inactive leg muscles, can contribute to poor blood flow and weakened vein valves. This can cause blood to pool in the veins, leading to the development of varicose veins. Regular movement, such as taking short walks or stretching, can help promote healthy blood flow and reduce the risk of varicose veins.
In conclusion, sitting for prolonged periods can have various detrimental effects on our overall health and well-being. From musculoskeletal issues such as lower back pain and muscle stiffness to cardiovascular problems like reduced blood flow and higher blood pressure levels, extended sitting has wide-ranging consequences. It can also contribute to metabolic changes, digestive issues, joint problems, eye strain, impaired brain function, muscle degeneration, and mental health effects.
To mitigate these risks, it is crucial to incorporate regular physical activity, take breaks to stretch and move throughout the day, and reduce overall sitting time. By adopting these habits, we can promote better health, enhance productivity, and improve our overall quality of life.