Here’s what too much sitting does to your body


SITTING is such a paradox. After a long day, you relish the opportunity to plop down on the couch and settle in for the evening. But cozy up in that same position (more likely on a poorly designed office chair than a plush sofa) all day long and you suffer a stiff neck, tight shoulders, and back pain. What gives?
“Any position we hold for any length of time will eventually turn to pain because the body is not primed to do that,” said Joan Vernikos, former NASA scientist and author of Designed to Move: The Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health.
She discovered that prolonged sitting can lead to similar health effects — bone and muscle degeneration, along with back soreness — astronauts suffer after spending time in microgravity.
“Most people are sitting six to 13 hours a day. This immobility causes the illnesses we have come to recognize as modern disorders, like diabetes, obesity, cancers, heart conditions, and loss in blood volume,” she said.
While those diseases may take years to develop, the pain from sitting all day is immediately felt after getting up. Here’s why everything hurts after a day spent chained to your chair.
When you sit all day, you know what your glutes and calves are doing? Pretty much nothing — except slowly wasting away. This could make for a sore, wobbly walk home, when your legs finally start holding you up again.
“It’s not the number of hours sat that’s important, it’s how many uninterrupted hours of sitting that matters,” said Vernikos. When conducting a study on people lying in bed 24 hours a day, she found that standing up every half hour was enough to prevent the harmful effects of an otherwise immobile lifestyle.
Taking a load off (and keeping it off for hours on end) can also make the blood build up in your veins, which causes unpleasant sensations like burning and cramping in the calves. Ouch.
Sitting might be relaxing for your body, but to your nerves, it’s torture. The unnatural position causes strained and pinched nerves, which results in pain throughout the body. “If you sit in one position long enough and you don’t move, the muscle contracts. As it contracts, it pulls the nerves it’s in contact with, so you go into a sort of spasm,” said Vernikos. But since those nerves are pulled with every movement, shouldn’t we feel pain all the time? Not exactly, said Vernikos.
“It’s one thing to stimulate the muscle to contract and relax when you’re engaging in activity, but if you contract it and don’t move for a long time, it can pinch the nerves and cause pain in the lower back and shoulders.”

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