According to the Heart Foundation, around 65.3% of Aussies over 15 either were sedentary or had low levels of exercise.
That’s close to 12 million people – a little under half the entire population.
And with less active living comes a whole host of potential health problems.
While inactivity isn’t great for the body in general, much of this idle time is spent sitting down.
In our experience, this is even worse. That’s because staying seated comes with a host of unique problems that make it one of the worst forms of inactivity.
Why? Our physio in Highett explains…
1) Mushy muscle problems
One of the most damaging consequences of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle is muscle degeneration.
When your leg muscles, abs, hips, and glutes sit inactive for long periods of time, they sit unused and can atrophy.
These are the muscles that hold you up. If they’re not up to the task, you might suffer from:
- Poor stability
- Loss of balance
- Bad posture
In particular, sitting for too long leads to tight hip muscles.
Without the flexibility normally afforded to them, your range of motion and stride length is reduced. It’s suggested that this is a leading cause behind hip problems in seniors.
It’s not just muscles either. Exercise encourages soft bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments to grow thicker and stronger. And your legs contain heaps of them – needless to say, not giving these soft bones the workout they need leads to problems.
These are just two examples of the far-reaching consequences mushy muscles have for the rest of your body. In our experience, weak muscles also put you at a heightened risk of injury.
The key lesson here? Use it or lose it!
2) How sitting too much can cause pain
We know what you’re thinking: how does sitting cause pain? After all, it’s not like your muscles are doing anything to cause a potential injury.
As physiotherapists, our concern is enabling a pain-free life for you. That means treating your pain and ensuring it never makes a return.
And a life spent sitting isn’t exactly conducive towards achieving that goal!
Long periods spent seated can reinforce bad habits and improper posture. These drastically increase your chances of running into musculoskeletal pain further down the line – your body is designed to stand upright, not hunched over.
Excessive sitting puts you at risk of:
In particular, sitting too long also causes compression on the discs in your spine – a problem that’s only made worse with bad posture.
Spinal discs act as shock absorbers in your spine. Sitting too much can lead to premature degeneration and herniated and bulging discs.
When this happens, you don’t have anything to absorb the forces that go up and down your spine every day. You’ll feel every single impact.
3) The link between organ problems and sitting
We all know that leading a life of inactivity dramatically increases your chances of heart disease. Inactivity increases blood pressure and elevates your cholesterol, putting you at risk of heart conditions.
What you mightn’t know however is that sitting too much can also problems in your other organs such as…
You need insulin to provide energy to your cells.
However, idle muscles don’t respond as well to insulin. Often, your pancreas might misinterpret this information, assuming that more insulin will fix the problem.
This over-production has many consequences, including a much higher chance of diabetes.
How sitting causes brain fog
Another organ that’s affected by sitting is your brain.
Yes, you heard that right!
Active muscles help pump fresh blood to your brain, keeping it alert. Additionally, it also triggers the release of mood-enhancing chemicals and hormones.
Constant sitting impairs blood flow to your brain. As a result, it’s not uncommon to feel:
Also known as mental fatigue, brain fog can interfere with your performance at work or school. Luckily, getting up and going for a 10-15 minute walk can alleviate these feelings.
Other types of problems
Contrary to popular belief, varicose veins aren’t the result of moving around too much. In fact, it’s the opposite – they’re caused by moving around too little!
Sitting for long periods of time can cause blood to pool in the legs. This can lead to varicose – or “spider” veins.
Another thing to worry about is blood flow.
Have you ever sat on a part of your body and felt your blood flow break off? The same thing happens to your leg muscles if you spend too much time sitting.
For most people, it just leads to pins and needles. Sometimes however, it can cause uncomfortable swelling.
In some rare cases however, this can cause blood clots – a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This can potentially cut off circulation not just to your legs, but around your entire system, leading to major medical emergencies.
Avoiding the consequences of too much sitting
Sitting down too much can cause plenty of problems – these are just some of the more common ones.
Unfortunately, thanks to the nature of our modern lifestyles, long unbroken periods of sitting are practically unavoidable for many of us.
Luckily, avoiding these problems is as simple as getting up every now and then. Even simple things make a difference:
- Sitting on a gym ball instead of a chair
- Standing up and stretching every half hour
- Parking further away
- Getting up during ad breaks
- Investing in more ergonomic seating or a standing desk
These are small changes. However, even a little bit of movement can have a huge impact when it comes to avoiding unnecessary pain!
Is your sedentary lifestyle causing you pain?
Talk to a physio in Highett ASAP!
If your work and lifestyle have left you with persistent muscle pain, there’s a solution.
Physio AUS is a physio with a clinic in Highett that specialises in helping resolve musculoskeletal pain.
Unlike other physios in Highett and beyond, our unique approach focuses on keeping you pain-free for good.
- Attacking root causes, not just symptoms
- Prescribing tools and supports
- Evaluating how you use your body
- Improving your technique
- Ongoing physio and routines that keep you active