By Mable Nakibuuka
Most people who work in offices, normally sit from 8:00Am-5:00Pm and to make matters worse, they drive from home to office and from office to home, leaving their bodies with no chance of doing any physical body exercise all day, which pose a lot of health risks to their lives.
With the steady increase in the use of digital technology, sitting has become the most common posture at the workplace. Most desk workers spend an average of 10 hours a day sitting in front of a computer, which leaves them very little opportunity for physical activity throughout the day. To help you understand the sheer gravity of something as seemingly harmless as sitting in a chair, this causes side effects from the top of your head down to the tip of your toes.
Here are some of the issues you may experience as a direct side effect of sitting too much;
It’s no secret that an inactive lifestyle can lead to increased weight gain. Too much sitting has been shown to decrease lipoprotein lipase activity which can have a negative impact on the body’s ability to burn fat. This leads to increased fat stores and encourages the use of carbohydrates (instead of fat) for fuel, and as result, the body will continue to gain fat even while consuming a low-calorie diet.
Poor Blood Circulation
Another obvious yet often ignored consequence of immobile sitting is poor blood circulation. Prolonged sitting time can slow down your blood circulation in the feet, which can lead to varicose veins, swollen ankles, or even dangerous blood clots like deep vein thrombosis.
When our body burns less fat and blood circulation is poor, there is an increased chance of fatty acids blocking the arteries in the heart. This links inactive sitting to elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, a study has shown that men who spend more than 10hours a week riding a car or over 23 hours a week watching television had 82% and 64% greater risk of suffering from heart disease compared to those who spent significantly less time on both activities.
Sitting all day loosens and weakens the muscles in the body, particularly those in the midsection and lower body. And without strong legs and glutes, our lower body becomes unable to hold us up when sitting down or keep us stable when walking and jumping, hence putting you at risk of injury. As they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
According to a 2017 study that examined the link between diabetes and total sitting time; there is a higher risk of diabetes in physically inactive people, with prolonged sitting being a major contributing factor. This is because decreased muscle mass and strength can result in lowered insulin sensitivity, which means that the cells respond slower to insulin (the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels). The lower the body’s sensitivity to insulin the higher the incidence of diabetes.
Apart from making our muscles more vulnerable to degenerating, prolonged sitting and slouching causes a variety of problems for your neck, shoulders, back, and hips. Your necks and shoulders curve and stiffen, your spine loses its flexibility as it absorbs pressure, and especially if you don’t use an ergonomic chair or already have bad posture to begin with.
Chronic Body Pain
The longer you sit and maintain bad posture, the more likely you are to experience chronic pain in areas such as your neck, shoulders, back, hips, and legs. Back pain is a prevalent health problem in Uganda and is considered one of the most common job-related disabilities. Over 50% of Ugandan adults have some musculoskeletal pain disorder-pain in the lower back, neck, joints and other related conditions.
With all the mental work you are doing at the office, you would think your brain would be in tip-top condition. But if you are sitting the whole time, the brain will be unable to get enough blood and oxygen, which it needs to function optimally. As a result, your brain function still slows down, and you don’t get to optimize your brain power. And when it doesn’t get enough glucose energy, brain cells may get damaged.
Anxiety And Depression
Another mental side effect of prolonged sitting is anxiety and depression. It’s easy to figure out why: those who sit all day don’t get to enjoy the health and mood-boosting benefits at come with exercise and staying fit. At the same time, being in front of the computer or TV all day limits sun exposure and social interaction, which leads to Vitamin D deficiency and strong feeling of loneliness.
Perhaps the scariest side effect of prolonged sitting is the risk of getting lung, colon, breast, uterine, and endometrial cancers. The exact correlation is not clear, but it could be due to the fact that sedentary behavior can boost the production of insulin in the body, which encourages cell growth. Alternatively, regular physical activity tends to have an antioxidant effect in the body due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress. Possible cancer risks can also be linked to weight gain, changes in hormone levels, metabolic dysfunction, and inflammation-all which can be exacerbated by sedentary behavior.
The side effects mentioned above are understandably worrisome, but it does not mean you have to quit your desk job or stop watching movies and going on long car rides. Anybody can and should reduce the effects of their sedentary lifestyles by simply getting up and moving more also known as engaging in physical activity).