Sitting for Long Hours is As Bad As Smoking a Pack of Cigarettes, Says Science

Working from home giving you a back or neck ache? Then, read on to cure the pain! 

Working from home for the duration of the pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. In the absence of a designated workstation, most of us are operating from makeshift work desks or even from the bed!

While it may sound comfortable, it certainly is not good for your health. Turns out that sitting for long hours at a stretch can give you high blood pressure and increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer? When we sit, we use less energy as compared to standing or moving. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with several health concerns such as obesity, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. 

Dr Vivek Mahajan, consultant interventional cardiology, Fortis Hospital Kalyan says, "Some studies to understand the link between sitting time and health risk factors found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity, faced similar risks of dying as posed by obesity or smoking. Therefore, living a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to your health. The less sitting or lying down you do during the day, the better your chances for living a healthy life. We know that due to the pandemic most people are confined to their homes and work-from-home has added up to more working hours, leading to long sitting hours in the front of the screens. But the health impact it has is manifold."

HOW DO LONG SITTING HOURS AFFECT YOUR BODY?

Humans are built to stand upright. Our heart and cardiovascular system work more effectively that way. Our bowel function is also more efficient when we are upright. Here's exactly what happens to your body when you sit for a long time:

Leg and gluteals (the booty muscles): Sitting for long periods can lead to weakening and wasting away of the large leg and gluteal muscles. These large muscles are important for walking and for stabilizing us. If these muscles are weak, we are more likely to get injured from falls, and from exercises.

Sluggish metabolism: Moving the muscles helps our body digest the fats and sugars we eat. If we spend a lot of time sitting, digestion is not as efficient, so the body will retain those fats and sugars.

Hip and joint problems: Sitting causes our hip flexor muscles to shorten, which can lead to problems with hip joints. Sitting for long periods can also cause problems with the back, especially if one consistently sits with poor posture or doesn’t use an ergonomically designed chair or workstation. Even if you exercise but end up spending a large amount of time sitting, you are still at risk of health problems such as Metabolic Syndrome.

Cancer: Recent studies suggest that the dangers of sitting include increasing your chances of developing some types of cancer, including lung, uterine, and colon cancers.

HOW TO STAY ACTIVE AND HEALTHY DURING WORK TIME?

When you are physically active, your overall energy levels and endurance improves, and your bones maintain strength. Dr Mahajan says, "The impact of movement, even leisurely movement, can be profound. For starters, you will burn more calories. This might lead to weight loss and increased energy levels. Also, physical activity helps maintain muscle tone and leads us to overall mental well-being. You might start by simply standing rather than sitting when you have the chance, or finding ways to walk while you work."

Here are some suggestions:

Every 30 minutes take a break from sitting
Stand while talking on the phone or while watching television
If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter
Position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk, so that you can be in motion throughout the day