Where you taught as a child to sit still over prolonged periods? Turns out this training may be detrimental to your health. Research indicates our bodies are not designed to function well during extended bouts in the sitting position. Unfortunately, many jobs require you do just that. And for many, this practice is carried over into their off hours.
There are at least two ways prolonged sitting negatively effects your health, one is because of reduced circulation and the other is muscle inactivity. Circulation is vital for cell health and muscle activity stimulates metabolism.
Essentially, your body is made up of cells. Maintaining healthy cells requires the consistent delivery of oxygen and nutrients, coupled with the constant removal of metabolic waste. An unsteady blood flow affects the quality of blood available for these ongoing cell requirements.
Muscle activity triggers the breakdown of fat and sugar. When your major muscles are inactive this metabolism slows down.
For years, health professionals have been encouraging participation in routine exercise. Research shows adherence to this practice offers numerous health benefits, like:
- improve metabolism
- lower blood pressure
- healthy weight maintenance
- lower cholesterol & triglyceride levels
- reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers
But a daily dose of exercise may not be enough to reverse the stalling effects of too much sitting.
Muscle activity needed for moving increases metabolism and blood flow. As previously noted, movement kicks metabolic processes into action. But why moving (as opposed to sitting) increases blood flow is the result of oscillating muscle contractions.
When a muscle contracts it causes vasodilation of vessels in working muscle. Less resistance allows for more blood to flow from the heart. At the same time, a contracting muscle pumps blood passed a series of valves that function to counter gravitational pull, known as the venous muscle pump. This action returns more blood back toward your heart.
In a sitting position, the major muscle groups of your legs are relaxed. So if contraction benefits are lacking, blood tends to pool in your feet and lower limbs. And this effects blood flow body wide.
Sometimes you cannot avoid sitting for long periods, for example while traveling by air or car. In this case, stretch, breathe deep and work your leg and calf muscles whenever circumstances dictate maintaining a seated position for prolonged intervals. In other words, fidget rather than sit still for the health of it.