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What Happens to Your Body When You Sit Too Much Every Day, Says Science

You'll be on a path toward a more stressful, uncomfortable, and shorter life.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan
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Scientists have long established that moving more and exercising come with an untold number of health benefits, which include everything from lowering your risk of disease and early death to greater flexibility, burning more fat, and even enhancing your imagination and creativity. But if you're living a sedentary lifestyle and sitting too much, there are several ways in which you're putting your body in harm's way in both the short and long run.

To learn exactly what happens to your body when you lead an inactive life, read on for the most notable side effects of sitting too much. And for more health advice you can use starting now, make sure you're aware of the One Major Side Effect of Walking Every Day.

1

You'll develop anxiety.

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A 2015 study published in the journal BMC Public Health concluded that those with "low energy levels" attributed to sitting for too long are at a much greater risk of developing anxiety. "These activities, which include watching TV, working at a computer or playing electronic games, are called sedentary behavior," the researchers explain.

The research team, from Australia's Deakin University's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-Pan), noted that 36% of high-school-age study subjects were likelier to experience the effects of anxiety if they had two hours of screen time or more per day. The researchers suggest that anxiety and sedentary behavior are linked because of poor sleep, "poor metabolic health," and social isolation.

If you're suffering from the effects of anxiety or depression, make sure you're aware of The 17 Foods That Make Anxiety or Depression Worse.

2

You'll develop terrible posture and eventually back pain.

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"Having poor posture may lead to aches and pains, but having it over the long term is when you get real damage," chiropractor Andrew Bang, DC, explained to the Cleveland Clinic. "For every inch you tilt it forward, the amount of weight it places on your spine nearly doubles."

According to UCLA Health, sitting for long periods is a one-way street to developing back pain, which is largely caused by more stress on your back, neck, arms, and legs. "It can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal disks. Additionally, sitting in a slouched position can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the spinal discs."

As a result, the health experts advise you to move more, be more active, and stretch routinely, while making sure to sit close to your desk, make sure your backside is pushed back against your chair to ensure proper sitting, and, if you're working, to keep your computer screen at eye level. "If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to either raise or lower it," they instruct.

3

You'll find yourself more easily distracted.

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According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the International Journal of Obesity, sitting too much will actually ding your attention span, making you much more vulnerable to distraction.

To conduct their study, scientists tracked the movement patterns and daily habits of 89 overweight or obese adults for a full week via accelerometers. When the study concluded, the scientists had discovered "that individuals who spent more sedentary time in bouts lasting 20 minutes or more were less able to overcome distractions."

4

You'll have less brain power overall.

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A study published in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education found that students who used a standing desk were better at school than those who sat at their desks. It was merely a bonus that the researchers, out of Texas A&M University, found that the students that stood burned 15 more calories than those who went through class seated.

RELATED: One Major Effect of Working Out Once Per Week

5

You'll pack on pounds.

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Fact: If you're sitting, you're not burning as many calories. According to a study of agricultural workers published in Physiology (Bethesda), those who spend their days on their feet are likely to burn 1,000 more calories per day than workers who spend their days seated at a desk. Another study, published in the journal Science, concluded that obese people tend to sit for two hours more per day—on average—than people who are not obese.

6

You'll put yourself at risk of blood clots.

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"Prolonged sitting without getting up to move around can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the formation of a blood clot in a vein deep in the body," explains George J. Todd, MD, Chair of the Department of Surgery at Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West. "DVT typically affects large veins in the thigh and leg but can present in other parts of the body. Once a clot forms in a vein, it can travel to the heart and lungs–forming a pulmonary embolus (PE)–which can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 900,000 people may be affected by DVT/PE each year, resulting in between 60,000 to 100,000 deaths. Other studies estimate a much higher figure for both DVT and PE."

7

You'll be shortening your life.

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According to the calculations of James Levine, MD, of the Mayo Clinic and author of Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, you're losing roughly two hours of life for every hour you're sitting down. "Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting," he explained to The Los Angeles Times. "We are sitting ourselves to death." For more expert-backed health advice you use right now, be sure to read about how you can Walk This Much Every Day to Burn More Fat, Says Top Doctor.

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William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more