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Sitting Too Long At Work - Risks Associated With Your Desk Job

Meredith Miller | Published: July 27, 2018

Woman sitting at desk

Many of us suffer from being required to sit for prolonged periods of time because of our employment. While many individuals who participate in manual labor understand that health risk associated with manual labor, many times the health risk associated with sitting too long has been overlooked. Let’s take a look at why sitting too long at work has its own set of associated risks.

How Much Sitting is Too Much Sitting?

Studies have shown that those who sit for 8 hours or longer during their jobs, such as those with a desk job have an increased risk of dying from similar effects to those of dying from things such as smoking and obesity. The body is designed to partake in a regular amount of movement. Prolonged sitting is unnatural and foreign to the human body.

It is estimated that on average American adults sit for between 9-10 hours, daily. Many people hope that they can participate in an hour of exercise to ‘make up’ for this excessive sitting, however, an hour of exercise will not counteract with sitting for 9-10 hour lengths of time.

What Happens To Your Body When You Sit Too Long?

There are an array of health risks of sitting. Many of these are considered serious health concerns. Here are some of the health risk associated with sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Organ Damage

  • Heart - Excessive sitting can result in blood flowing slower to the heart. This lack of movement causing fatty acids inside the body to accumulate and clog the heart at an alarmingly increased rate. The cardiovascular disease mortality rate makes this one of the top health risks of sitting.
  • Colon Cancer - Excessive sitting has be associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer. Finding shared at the Inaugural Active Working Summit in 2015 showed that sitting for prolonged periods of time, daily increased the risk of lung cancer, uterine cancer, and colon cancer by a significant amount.
  • Pancreas - Sitting for prolonged periods affects how the body responds to insulin. It is this change that causes the pancreas to increase the levels of insulin in the body thus in turn leading to diabetes in the future.

The cancer risks associated with sitting for prolonged periods of time comes from the idea that excessive sitting can alter biochemical processes within the body like weight gain, hormonal alteration, inflammation, and leptin dysfunction.

Digestion

Digestion can also be affected because prolonged hours of sitting slows the digestive system. This manifests itself as constipation, bloating and cramps.

Brain Damage

The scariest of all health risks of sitting is that excessive sitting can cause brain damage! Slowed blood flow and oxygen supply can affect the brain function. Other health risks include:

  • Posture Issues
  • Muscle Degeneration
  • Leg Disorders: Varicose Veins, Weak Bones.

The Effects of Sitting Too Much

The effects of sitting too much can be simple or detrimental to the health of an individuals body. Many of us do not realize the amount of time we spend sitting on any given day. At times sitting too long can seem unavoidable due to our desk job. We have to make money and if our job requires hours of sitting, it can seem impossible to counteract. Sitting too long can take years of an individuals life.

It is suggested that the more hours an individual spends sitting down, the shorter their lifespan becomes. A study published in British Journal of Sports Medicine suggested that for every hour a person spends watching television at the age of 25, their life is reduced by 22 minutes. This means it is directly related to how a person’s life is significantly reduced in terms of smoking. For each cigarette that in smoked, a person is said to lose 11 minutes from their life.

Avoiding Health Risk of Prolonged Sitting

I am guessing by now you are wondering, “how can I counteract the health risks of sitting or reduce health issues from prolonged sitting"? The answer to that is to get up and get out! Spend an appropriate amount of time after prolonged sitting periods getting movement and exercise. Some additional tips for walking more are:

  • Take the stairs when going to work at your desk job.
  • Park in the back of the parking lot.
  • Take a longer way to get to your desk job.

How Often You Should Get Up And Walk Around?

It is recommended that individuals get up and walk around or stretch for at least 10 minutes of each hour. Some people even recommend that individuals get up every 30 minutes.