Dangers of sedentary lifestyle: 8 ways sitting for too long is killing you | Health - Hindustan Times
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Dangers of sedentary lifestyle: 8 ways sitting for too long is killing you

By, New Delhi
Mar 04, 2024 02:03 PM IST

Sitting without a break can put you at risk of early death and even exercise cannot reduce this risk. How not getting up from your chair is killing you.

Sitting for extended periods without breaks can increase risk of early death by 30 per cent, according to a new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. While sedentary lifestyle has long been associated with increased risk of death, as per this research exercise did nothing to reduce or reverse early mortality risk. People who spend majority of their time sitting around for work or other reasons could suffer from a range of health disorders. (Also read: 10 ways sitting for 10 hours daily is affecting your brain and raising risk of dementia)

While sedentary lifestyle has long been associated with increased risk of death, as per this research exercise did nothing to reduce or reverse early mortality risk.(Freepik)
While sedentary lifestyle has long been associated with increased risk of death, as per this research exercise did nothing to reduce or reverse early mortality risk.(Freepik)

Sedentary behaviour is any kind of waking behaviour that involves sitting or reclining with low energy expenditure. It can play a significant role in reducing muscle contractions, blood flow and glucose metabolism, which could have negative effect on health. Researchers of the study found that low or high amounts of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity showed the same heightened risk if the sitting duration is too long.

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Dr Rakesh Gupta, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in an interview with HT Digital shares how extended sitting can cause health issues from muscle degeneration, weakened bones, heart disease, to diabetes.

RISKS OF TOO MUCH SITTING

1. Increased risk of obesity and high blood sugar or diabetes

Prolonged sitting slows down the enzyme lipoprotein lipase which is responsible for breaking down fats. When this enzyme is less active, triglycerides and blood sugar levels increase, leading to weight gain and insulin resistance over time. Getting up every 30-60 minutes helps stimulate lipoprotein lipase activity and regulates blood sugar and body weight.

2. Muscle degeneration

Excessive sitting prevents the activation and contraction of muscles which facilitates the breakdown of protein stored in muscles. Over time, this causes muscle loss, reduced muscle mass and strength. Taking regular standing or movement breaks stimulates muscles, preventing wasting. Simple strength training 2-3 times a week also preserves muscle mass.

3. Poor circulation

Sitting for too long leads to constricted blood vessels in the legs and increased blood pressure. This reduces blood flow to the heart and legs, increasing the risk of varicose veins and blood clots. Moving and contracting leg muscles helps pump blood back to the heart. Light walking also aids venous blood return.

4. Back and neck pain

Prolonged static postures from excessive sitting stresses the spine's intervertebral discs, joints, ligaments and muscles causing lower back pain. Poor neck postures which often accompany sitting also leads to muscle strain and cervical pain. Varied postures and taking regular standing breaks can avoid overuse of certain muscle groups.

5. Increased risk of heart disease

Excess sedentary time is linked to a 147% increase in cardiovascular events. It also induces fat deposit around blood vessels and vital organs even in non-obese people, leading to arterial stiffness and heart disease. Achieving moderate activity of 150 minutes per week aids heart health.

6. Weakened bones

Sitting prevents loading and weight-bearing on hip and leg bones necessary to stimulate bone-building osteoblasts. This causes gradual bone mineral loss and risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis. Weight training and moderate impact cardio several times a week provides bone loading.

7. Increased fatigue/low energy

Sedentary behaviour reduces cellular signals that enable sugar and fat breakdown for energy production. Sitting also restricts blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles, further limiting energy capacity and making it harder to combat fatigue. Moving every half hour helps keep energy production high.

8. Risk of varicose veins

Poor blood return from the legs due to gravity and prolonged sitting slows circulation and causes blood to pool in leg veins. This expands veins over time leading to painful, swollen varicose veins. Light leg muscle contractions help return blood to the heart. Avoid crossing legs when sitting which further impedes blood flow.

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