What are the risks of being too sedentary?

Human beings are designed to be upright. We’re built to move. 

Unfortunately, modern life often prevents us from moving our bodies as much as we should. As a result, many of us spend far too much time sitting down and not enough time on our feet. 

According to Get Britain Standing, people in the UK sit for an average of 8.9 hours a day. This might sound a lot, but once we add up our daily commute, work, eating and take relaxing into account, it’s easy to see how we reach this figure. 

But what are the risks of being too sedentary? 

In this article, we look at how being sedentary affects us and how we can incorporate more movement into our lives to enjoy better health.

How does being too sedentary affect our health?

Spending too much time sitting down can have a negative impact on many aspects of our health. Here are some of the most significant ways it can affect us: 

Chronic diseases

According to the World Health Organisation, a sedentary lifestyle increases all causes of mortality. It doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increases the risks of colon cancer and high blood pressure. 

Regular exercise can help reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and several forms of cancer. 

Weight Gain

Research shows that carrying excess weight, especially around the stomach, can increase our risk of chronic diseases.

Sitting for long periods is believed to slow down the metabolism, which then impacts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat. 

Being active is a great way to keep our weight at a healthy level, which leads to a healthier life all round! 

Back & Neck Pain

Sitting down for long periods of time can bring on back and neck pain, or increase the severity of existing pain. This is often due to poor posture and not supporting our backs correctly.  

Over time, this can lead to compression of the spine and premature degradation. 

If you work in a desk based job, read our tips on how to minimise your risks of back and neck pain

Muscle Degeneration

If we’re not moving our body regularly, then our muscles will start to weaken. 

Weaker muscles increase the risk of injury, as we’re more likely to pull a muscle when we do get active. It can also make us less stable on our feet which could cause us to fall and lead to further injuries. 

Osteoporosis & Bone Health

Losing bone density is a natural part of ageing, however a lack of exercise can speed up this process, which can lead to a condition known as osteoporosis.

Exercise strengthens our bones, which can help to prevent the disease.

Mental Health

People who sit more tend to have a higher chance of experiencing depression or anxiety. 

One study showed that middle-aged women who sat more than 7 hours a day were three times as likely to have depressive symptoms compared with women who sat up to 4 hours a day and were physically active.

Moving is so important for our mental health. Exercise releases endorphins (also known as happy hormones!), they are a natural pain reliever and can also improve mood and reduce rates of depression and anxiety.

How to introduce more movement into your day

Making time to move more doesn’t mean you have to do an intense workout everyday – all movement counts! 

While we do recommend carving out some time to get outside and be active, there are also many ways you can incorporate movement into your day just through making some simple changes.

  • Try to change position every twenty minutes; stand up and move (especially if you’re working at a desk)
  • If you have a desk-based role, set up a standing desk
  • Stand up during phone calls
  • Opt for the stairs rather than a lift and walk up escalators
  • Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way
  • Park further away from wherever you’re going and walk the rest of the way
  • Do some gentle stretches while watching TV
  • Swap some TV time for more active tasks or hobbies 
  • Arrange standing or walking meetings
  • Eat meals away from your desk or sofa

If you are a wheelchair user, or have reduced mobility, check out these fitness tips from the NHS.

Speak to us

If you’re ready to move more, speak to us first to make sure everything is in order. Our chiropractors have extensive training in exercise and rehabilitation, so we can recommend a course of treatment to keep you well and help your body function optimally.

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