How To Move Without Pain

Physical Effects of Chronic Sitting

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 6 minutes to read

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If you find yourself sitting a lot more, you are not alone. Commutes to work, desk jobs, meetings, teaching through a computer, email, zoom conferences, this list goes on of all the ways we are sitting more and more.

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Since 1950, the sedentary style job has increased by 80%, according to the American Heart Association.  All of these decreases in our activity level  during our work day and home life, change our health in the long run – and not in a good way. 

Even if we intentionally take a 30minute walk, we have to take into account what we do for the other 23.5 hours of the day.

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So what is really happening to us when we sit for hours on end each day. 

Weight gain

We’re gaining weight. Less activity equals less calories burned, which equates to more pounds on our body. We need to burn calories to lose weight, if we don’t get up and move, the balance of calories in versus calories burned isn’t in our body’s favor.

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Bones maintain strength by the pull of the muscle force put on them. If we sit for prolonged periods, not activating our muscles then we are slowly losing bone mass as a result.

Total bone mass (or density) peaks at age 35, and can slowly decrease after this.  Inactivity can speed this process up, and potentially lead to what is called osteopenia.  Osteopenia is a condition that begins as we start to lose bone mass.  Osteopenia can then put us at a higher risk for osteoporosis.

This is especially true for the bones in our pelvis and legs.  If we don’t stand, walk, or even go up and down the stairs, the bones can loose density and overall strength.

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Cardiovascular Implications

Along with watching what we eat to maintain our heart health and keep arteries free flowing, inactivity can also cause arterial clots to form.  These can potentially be very dangerous. Prolonged sitting can cause the blood flow to and from the legs to become stagnant causing clots to be more prevalent and incidence to rise.

Loss of Balance

Balance is a learned activity and balance needs strength. Inactivity can make our bodies weak, losing our abilities to hold ourselves up against gravity.

The risk of falling rises exponentially when balance and weakness are compromised.

Falls may lead to bigger issues and injuries, such as fractured bones and muscle tears, leading to further immobility.

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Chronic Pain

Our bodies are made to be in motion. Joints self lubricate from joint movement and shearing; muscles and tendons maintain their tension strength from activity and use.

When we sit for long periods of time, our joints become stiff in the position we are most often in, while others are on a prolonged stretch. Either way the muscles weaken with inactivity. 

Prolonged postures can cause abnormal pressure and strain on tissues that may lead to increased risk of developing pain in that area.

Take the free Joint Health Assessment to learn the potential impact of your current activity limitations​

It has often been said that sitting is the new smoking. The good news is, the negative health effects of prolonged sitting can be reversed, but we need to recognize in ourselves, that we need to get up and move our bodies now. 

Physical changes on the inside from more activity will equate to better endurance, increased energy, improved focus and productivity, help reduce our waistlines and much more. 

Everything in moderation as they say, and that includes how long you sit in the car, desk or on the couch.

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