Life just seems to be a tad expensive. There is nothing that is ever a given; everything seems to come at a cost nowadays. You eat this yummy food, the doctor says it affects your health, you sleep so much and you are told it is bad. Now they say even sitting could be dangerous. Yes, you heard that right; sitting is dangerous.
According to Dr Rachna Pande, a specialist in Internal Medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital, modern lifestyle has many changes, including sitting in comfy chairs for long hours, especially for office workers.
But how does sitting really become a health hazard? When a person is sitting upright, Dr Pande says, the force of gravity tends to pull the back down. Thus sitting for long hours, leads to back strain and eventually backache.
“This is aggravated by using thick cushioned broad chairs in which one tends to plunge down and the back sags. If the nerves of the back or their branches are compressed, there can be abnormal sensations or burning pain in feet and legs,” she says.
“Osteoarthritis or the stiffness of knees which normally comes with aging after 60 years or so, occurs early in desk workers.”
Dr Pande says that this kind of sitting also leads to central obesity which is a precursor for diseases such as diabetes and heart problem.
Sitting and working for long hours in close rooms, she adds, also puts strain on the eyes leading to visual disturbances.
“The far sight of a person is reduced and due to the strain of working in close proximity with computers or reading and writing constantly can also affect near vision at early age,” Dr Pande says.
The physician adds that chronic constipation is yet another health hazard people who sit for hours on end are exposed to, as lack of movement affects digestion and the bowel movement.
Lt. Col. Alex Butera, an orthopedic surgeon at the Rwanda Military Hospital, says sitting for long is now common in cars, in offices, and at home while watching TV.
Dr Butera says this increases risk of heart diseases by 52-64 per cent by increasing risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol; increased risk of diabetes due to overproduction of insulin which is less responsive; muscle degeneration; tight hips which may cause falls as well as increased risk of soft bones as walking and activity makes bones stronger.
Dr Pande advises people to avoid sitting continuously for long hours.
“After sitting for an hour or so, one should stand up and move around for about at least 10 to 15 minutes. One can take a walk in the office premises. Avoid lifts; climb stairs as much as possible,” she says.
“Regular exercise is even better,” adds Dr Butera. “In hospitals where sitting and sleeping are inevitable, patients are given protective medication and physiotherapy sessions to counter these effects.”
Trouble at the top
Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.
Organ damage; heart disease
Muscles burn less fat and blood flows more sluggishly during a long sit, allowing fatty acids to more easily clog the heart. Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, and people with the most sedentary time are more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease than those with the least.
The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that carries glucose to cells for energy. But cells in idle muscles don't respond as readily to insulin, so the pancreas produces more and more, which can lead to diabetes and other diseases.
If most of your sitting occurs at a desk at work, craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle a phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae and lead to permanent imbalances.
Sore shoulders and back
The neck doesn't slouch alone. Slumping forward overextends the shoulder and back muscles as well, particularly the trapezius, which connects the neck and shoulders.
Bad back; inflexible spine
When we move around, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. But when we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around supporting tendons and ligaments.