How Sitting Is Literally Killing You

by
Dr. Ariel Thorpe

Have you ever noticed your legs have been heavy or bloated after a prolonged period of sitting (think about the last long-haul flight you took; I know it was a while ago)? It is annoying, especially if you need to put shoes on, but it can also be deadly. Yes, deep vein thrombosis is a risk but there is a longer-term issue that can kill you much more slowly.

Like you experience on a flight, blood can pool in the legs, this build up of fluid in the lower half of the body means that there is less blood circulating through the upper half, particularly to the brain. Since our brain is a vital organ to keep us alive and functioning, if the body senses that there is not enough nutrients getting to the brain via the blood, it will send more glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream to get to the brain. Unfortunately, this has a system-wide effect and glucose will be shuttled everywhere, not just to the brain. With all of the blood pooling in the legs, excess blood sugar ends up there unnecessarily as well. While this helps meet the needs of the brain, our body will sense that there is plenty of available sugar already in the bloodstream and it inhibits fat burning. Think about it: why burn fat to create more energy if there's already energy in the form of sugar running rampant through the blood? It's actually your body being really efficient. This causes changes in your metabolism to not adapt as readily to energy changes in the body. This is the beginning stages that lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These four chronic diseases, in this case, are 100% preventable and based entirely on the decision to sit for extended periods.

Chronic sitting leads to:

  • Twice the risk of diabetes
  • 90% greater risk of cardiovascular disease
  • 49% greater risk of death

The solution is easy. If you prioritize a healthy life over a sick life do this:

  • Move throughout the day. Set an alarm to stand up and walk around the room periodically (every 20 minutes is ideal but do what you can)
  • Break up bouts of screen time (ex. Netflix, WFH) with brief bodyweight exercises like push ups, planks, and squats
  • Keep movement in your joints with regular chiropractic adjustments

References: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3400064/​

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22890825/

Vernikos, J. Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. Quill Driver Books, 2011.

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