The 28th of April every year is observed as World Day for Safety and Health at Work. This was started by International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2003 to discuss and work towards the importance of a safe and healthy work environment.
It is said ‘Sitting is the new smoking’. The present day corporate job often requires prolonged hours of sitting at work. We often sit for prolonged hours in front of the computer at workplace or in front of the television at home while relaxing. This leads to a number of health risks even among youngsters, some of which are also interlinked. On World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023, The CSR Journal takes a look into the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
Sedentary lifestyle is closely linked to obesity. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time leads to a number of health concerns. These include obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and unhealthy cholesterol levels. The fewer calories burnt, the more likely a person will gain weight. Sitting often leads to enhanced tummy and fat accumulation around the waist.
Sitting for long hours leads to decreased blood flow and increased pressure on the digestive tract. Prolonged sitting causes the contents of our abdomen (including intestinal tract) to compress, which slows down the process of digestion. This in turn leads to bloating and gas, cramps, heartburn and general discomfort after eating.
Too much sitting or prolonged periods of sitting enhances the risk of cardiovascular diseases which can also lead to death. A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for heart disease. The more we sit, the higher is the risk of falling prey to heart diseases. Even if someone works out regularly, prolonged sitting at workplace can be fatal for our heart health.
Sitting for long periods not only increases a person’s risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease and early death but can also lead to type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented by avoiding prolonged hours of sitting, shedding off the extra kilos, abstaining from smoking and regularly exercising.
Sitting for more than 6 hours a day is also said to put a person at risk to high blood pressure. Not performing any kind of physical activity and prolonged periods of sedentary behaviour, for example seating or a reclined posture is said seriously damage the back and spine and increase blood pressure.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be a major cause of back pain. This puts a lot of stress on our back, neck, arms and legs and can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. Sitting for long especially in a bad posture can lead to problems like upper back pain, lower back pain and tailbone pain. The latter has been a common problem for working professionals during and after the Covid-19 pandemic when people used to sit for long hours on their work desk or on bed with laptop. Especially regularly sitting for longer hours on a hard surface can injure one’s tailbone and also cause lower back pain.
Some studies have linked extended hours of sitting with ovarian and endometrial cancers. Doctors say sitting for long hours can also lead to including lung and colon cancers. A The New York Times report says sedentary behavior is linked to an increased risk of fatal cancer. It says sitting for hours could heighten someone’s risk of later dying from cancer, according to a study. The findings suggest that extremely sedentary people can be as much as 80 percent more likely to die of cancer than those who sit the least.
Mental Health and brain
While all this time we were discussing the physical consequences of sitting, many are unaware of the fact that sitting can negatively impact our mental health too! Sitting for hours without moving may reduce the pace of blood flow to our brain while sedentary lifestyle has also been linked to mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. How prolonged sitting negatively affects our mental health was seen during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, post which a lot of mental health problems were reported.
Why and how to avoid prolonged sitting
Doctors suggest it is extremely necessary to have a little physical movement in between long hours of sitting. This is crucial to keep our heart and overall health good and keep is fit and in shape. To avoid longer hours of sitting at work, it is necessary to:
–Take short breaks for 10-15 minutes at least every 2 hours. One can go out of the office and take a walk in the pavement or parking space (preferably without smoking a cigarette).
–While taking a long phone call, like a telephonic interview or telephonic meeting, it is advisable to walk or stand.
–If you don’t have any knee problem or leg pain, it is healthier to avoid the lift as much as possible and try taking the staircase for at least 2-3 floors both in office and at home.
–Joining any community-based activities, such as zumba, yoga, dance classes.
–Running or walking on mornings and/or evenings is a very effective way to avoid sedentary lifestyle and stay healthy and in shape.
Ahana Bhattacharya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org