The outward signs of a sedentary lifestyle are usually fairly easy to see and feel over time. An expanding waistline, pain and stiffness in the knees, hips, neck, shoulders, and lower back. And while an hour or two of yoga and high impact cardio at the gym a few times a week is certainly important, the research on the long term health effects of spending too many hours in a chair every day has shown that even an active lifestyle and fitness routine is not enough to negate the potentially deleterious effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
What Prolonged Sitting Does to Your Body and Long Term Health
As it turns out, sitting for as many as eight hours a day, which happens to be the norm for the average American, can do a lot more harm than a stiff neck and sore lower back. A sedentary lifestyle can cause serious health problems in the entire body. From the brain to the spine and pancreas, eight hours a day in a chair (which happens to be more time than most people sleep on any given night), can disrupt circulation and cause a buildup of insulin that increases the risk of developing everything from diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer.
Already the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States, prolonged sitting can increase the risks of developing cardiovascular disease by slowing down blood flow and the muscles’ ability to burn fat as effectively as necessary to prevent fatty deposits in the arteries.
Excessive sitting has been linked to higher risks for several types of cancer including breast, colon, and endometrial. One theory is that insulin buildup can help fuel cell growth, and less activity may also lead to the build up of free radicals in the body, which are also believed to potentially contribute to a higher risk of developing certain forms of cancer.
From poor circulation in the legs to muscle atrophy and the loss of bone density associated with osteoporosis, sitting can also exacerbate disc disease and spinal rigidity.
Unfortunately, even an hour or two of vigorous physical activity is insufficient to completely counter the negative effects of sitting. Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sanjay Khurana advises people who spend several hours a day sitting down to stand and move around frequently, making it a point to sit for no more than 30 minutes at a time, and then taking a small break to stretch and walk around the home or office, even if just for a few minutes.
Guidelines for safely sitting at a desk:
- Don’t lean forward
- Keep the shoulders relaxed
- Keep the arms at the sides and elbows bent at a 90 degree angle
- Keep the lower back supported
- Keep the feet flat on the floor
- Orthopedic Spine Surgery in Beverly Hills
To learn more about keeping your back and joints healthy, and for more information on minimally invasive treatments for chronic back pain and spine injuries, contact Dr. Sanjay Khurana, Dr. Rojeh Melikian, and the team at the Los Angeles Spine Group at 310.321.4333 to schedule an appointment today.