Right now, you’re probably sitting down
to watch this video
and staying seated for a few minutes
to view it is probably okay.
But the longer you stay put,
the more agitated your body becomes.
It sits there counting down the moments
until you stand up again
and take it for a walk.
That may sound ridiculous.
Our bodies love to sit, right?
Sure, sitting for brief periods
can help us recover from stress
or recuperate from exercise.
But nowadays, our lifestyles make us sit
much more than we move around,
and our bodies simply aren’t built
for such a sedentary existence.
In fact, just the opposite is true.
The human body is built to move,
and you can see evidence of that
in the way it’s structured.
Inside us are over 360 joints,
and about 700 skeletal muscles
that enable easy, fluid motion.
The body’s unique physical structure
gives us the ability to stand up straight
against the pull of gravity.
Our blood depends on us moving around
to be able to circulate properly.
Our nerve cells benefit from movement,
and our skin is elastic,
meaning it molds to our motions.
So if every inch of the body
is ready and waiting for you to move,
what happens when you just don’t?
Let’s start with the backbone
of the problem, literally.
Your spine is a long structure
made of bones and the cartilage discs
that sit between them.
Joints, muscles and ligaments
that are attached to the bones
hold it all together.
A common way of sitting is with a
curved back and slumped shoulders,
a position that puts uneven
pressure on your spine.
Over time, this causes wear and tear
in your spinal discs,
overworks certain ligaments and joints,
and puts strain on muscles that stretch
your back’s curved position.
This hunched shape also shrinks
your chest cavity while you sit,
meaning your lungs have less space
to expand into when you breath.
That’s a problem because it temporarily
limits the amount of oxygen
that fills your lungs
and filters into your blood.
Around the skeleton are the muscles,
nerves, arteries and veins
that form the body’s soft tissue layers.
The very act of sitting squashes,
pressurizes and compresses,
and these more delicate tissues
really feel the brunt.
Have you ever experienced numbness
and swelling in your limbs when you sit?
In areas that are the most compressed,
your nerves, arteries and veins
can become blocked,
which limits nerve signaling,
causing the numbness,
and reduces blood flow in your limbs,
causing them to swell.
Sitting for long periods also temporarily
deactivates lipoprotein lipase,
a special enzyme in the walls
of blood capillaries
that breaks down fats in the blood,
so when you sit, you’re not burning fat
nearly as well as when you move around.
What effect does all of this stasis
have on the brain?
Most of the time,
you probably sit down to use your brain,
but ironically, lengthy periods of sitting
actually run counter to this goal.
Being stationary reduces blood flow
and the amount of oxygen entering
your blood stream through your lungs.
Your brain requires both
of those things to remain alert,
so your concentration levels
will most likely dip
as your brain activity slows.
Unfortunately, the ill effects of being
seated don’t only exist in the short term.
Recent studies have found
that sitting for long periods
is linked with some types of cancers
and heart disease
and can contribute to diabetes,
kidney and liver problems.
In fact, researchers
have worked out that, worldwide,
inactivity causes about
9% of premature deaths a year.
That’s over 5 million people.
So what seems like such a harmless habit
actually has the power
to change our health.
But luckily, the solutions to this
mounting threat are simple and intuitive.
When you have no choice but to sit,
try switching the slouch
for a straighter spine,
and when you don’t have
to be bound to your seat,
aim to move around much more,
perhaps by setting a reminder
to yourself to get up every half hour.
But mostly, just appreciate that bodies
are built for motion, not for stillness.
In fact, since the video’s almost over,
why not stand up and stretch right now?
Treat your body to a walk.
It’ll thank you later.