Smoking and drinking aren’t the only vices killing you

By Ea Francisco

Sure, we’re all aware of the health risks of smoking and drinking, but the worst of them all is one we are all guilty of doing—sitting. It might not look much, but what you don’t know is that eight hours of continuous sitting can easily reverse the effects of exercise.

Organ Damage

When you sit down, your body basically functions a lot slower. Studies show that prolonged sitting has a negative effect on your organs, namely your heart, pancreas, and colon. Sitting makes blood flow and fat burn slower, so it makes your heart more vulnerable to being clogged by fatty acids. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology says sitting for more than 10 hours puts you at risk of heart disease. In addition to that, excessive sitting causes your pancreas to release more insulin, and the contracted positions slow digestion. These make you vulnerable to colon cancer and heartburn, but regular movement, which produces antioxidants, can counter this.

Muscle Degeneration

Other side effects of prolonged sitting are muscle atrophy and weakened joints. When sitting down, you’re not using the muscle fibers in your legs and hours of disuse cause breakdown. Also, the position of your legs when sitting affects blood circulation and further adds to muscle breakdown. According to a University of Massachusetts study, muscles don’t go back to normal right away even after being active again.

Researchers found that to counter this, you have to stand up for two hours if you’ve been sitting for eight hours.

Bad Back

The most obvious disadvantages of prolonged sitting are back and neck aches. Most lower back problems are caused by pressure from bending and slouching. When standing, the vertebrae expand and stretch but when sitting, they are awkwardly crushed together. The pressure hardens the ligaments and the tendons.

Weight Gain

Sitting decreases the release of the fat-burning enzyme lipoprotein lipase. Studies by the American Journal of Physiology show that fat tends to build up faster in areas where there is pressure but no activity. These two would explain why sitting causes fat to build up more on your belly and butt. Thankfully, simple stretches and exercises while sitting down can help lessen this.

Unfortunately, a little exercise can’t undo the harmful effects of prolonged sitting. The good news though is that you can interrupt these negative effects by standing up or walking around every once in awhile. Even a minute of walking every 30 minutes of sitting is enough. Proper posture is also another way to help if you really can’t get out of your chair for too long.