Sedentary Work: Risky Business for Heart Health

Being sedentary at work all day long may be just as bad for your heart as being overweight is. Sitting and not getting enough exercise throughout the day can have many negative consequences for your heart and overall health.

Right now, you’re probably sitting down to read this article, but the longer you stay put the more agitated your body becomes. Our lifestyles have evolved to make us sit much more than we move around, and our bodies aren’t built for this type of lifestyle. Our nerve cells benefit from movement and our skin is elastic, waiting for us to move and get active throughout the day. Due to technology, as a society we are more sedentary now than ever before because of an increase in desk jobs and activities that can be done while sitting (i.e. video games, watching TV, surfing the web). In fact, sedentary jobs increased 83% since 1950.

How is this impacting your risk for developing heart disease? There is a direct correlation between sedentary work and heart disease because the more you sit, the less you move, and the less you move, the more your risk increases. Evidence and research is coming out showing that sitting for long periods of time can have a profound negative effect on your health.

In fact, a study published in 2017 from theAnnals of Internal Medicine found evidence that sitting for long periods of time is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and more. The study found that the more time you sit, the greater your risk for cardiovascular diseases becomes.

The Dangers of Sitting

Our bodies are built to stand upright and move. Your heart and cardiovascular system work more effectively when your body is moving. When you are physically active your overall energy levels and endurance improve, and your bones maintain strength. When sitting for too long, here are a couple of things that can happen to your body.

  • Blood flow slows down, which allows fatty acids to build up in the blood vessels. This can lead to heart disease or congestive heart failure.
  • Your body’s ability to process fats is lowered when sitting down for long periods of time. Lipoprotein lipase, an important enzyme your body produces to break down fat, drops by about 90 percent when sedentary, which makes it very difficult for your body to use fat. When your body doesn’t use fat, it gets stored which makes you gain weight.
  • Sitting can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause type 2 diabetes and obesity – two risk factors for heart disease.
  • When you sit regularly for extended periods of time, your bones get weaker and your entire skeletal system can experience negative effects, including pain, bone spurs, inflammation, and other symptoms.

How to Combat a Sedentary Lifestyle

It’s possible to incorporate more activity during your day and change your lifestyle and habits. Some ways you can incorporate activity into your day are:

  • Walk or bike to work instead of driving.
  • For longer trips, take public transportation half the way and then walk or bike the rest.
  • Use the stairs wherever possible instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Park further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way.
  • Exercise regularly.

Always try to incorporate more activity in your day to keep your heart healthy. Using an activity monitor to set daily step goals can also be helpful in reminding you to move around regularly.