Why Is Sitting Down In Front Of The TV All Day Is So Unhealthy?
Inactivity – that is the main reason why sitting is so unhealthy and damaging to our health.
When we are up and moving, blood is flowing to all parts of our body, but when we sit for extended periods of time, blood tends to pool in our lower extremities.
Reduced Brain Function
Without blood flowing throughout our body as it should, brain function slows down. This inhibits certain mood-enhancing and cognitive chemicals that would otherwise be released if we were up and moving. The result is brain fogginess.
With blood pooling, blood flow tends to get sluggish allowing fatty acids to build quicker resulting in plaque, elevated cholesterol and eventually heart disease. If we are up and moving, fatty acids are better flushed from the circulatory system.
Sitting for a good portion of your work day can also increase your risk for certain cancers, – especially colon. While not fully understood why, scientists think it could be because of the extra insulin that builds up in our systems which triggers unwanted cell growth. Uncontrolled cell growth manifests itself as cancer and in the case of sitting, seems to develop in the colon.
Muscle degeneration and tightening
When we are up and moving about, standing or even sitting up straight, our abdominal muscles support our back. But when slumped over, the abs are not doing their fair share of work, thus they are getting weaker and extra pressure is applied to the back muscles. This muscle imbalance can eventually lead to a condition called sway back resulting in back pain.
Prolonged sitting can also lead to a shortening and tightening of the hip flexors. Over time, this reduces the range of motion in your hips and can increase your risk for falls.
Herniated disks is also a common condition of people who sit a lot. Prolonged sitting tightens up the psoas muscle – the muscle running from the hips to the spine that provides stability. Over time, it shortens up from non-use and pulls the lower spine forward putting excessive pressure on some disks. Eventually disks that act like sponge-like shock absorbers squeeze out between two vertebrae causing pain and sometimes surgery to correct the condition.
So what is the cure? Getting up and moving around for at least 5 minutes every 30 minutes or so. Get a cup of coffee or a glass of water, or hand deliver a colleague a message instead of emailing it – anything to get you up and moving.
How to Make Sitting Down In Front of the TV More Healthy
As we become more technology oriented, we tend to spend more time sitting than we should. With big screen HD TVs, and now curved screens, we tend to spend even more time now watching TV than in the past. And what is the natural thing to do while watching TV? Eat.
Eating in front of the TV can take a couple of different forms, from just snacking to eating supper. What makes eating in front of the TV so unhealthy is that we don’t take in account what we eat or how much. Mindless snacking can add hundreds of calories to your daily intake and because you are not burning off those extra calories, you put on weight (and most likely wonder why).
So what is the answer? Ultimately, it would be to not snack while watching TV, but even I know that is not a reasonable request. So the next best thing would be to eat healthy snacks in moderation. Carrots (dipped in a low-fat, non-fat dip), celery (with some peanut butter), air-popped popcorn (without butter), low-fat string cheese – in moderation are all good choices for evening snacks while watching TV.
Listen to your body. It will tell you when it is full. But if your focus is on the TV program, you’ll miss the signal and keep eating. Even healthy snacks can add up if you mindlessly eat, and eat, and …. You get the picture.
The other thing you can do to make sitting in front of the TV healthier is to not sit as much. TV show producers have made it easy for us to stand up and walk around – it is called commercials. During a commercial – no doubt one you have seen a hundred times already – get up and walk around (but don’t walk to the frig to get another snack or beer).
Not only does this give you a little exercise to burn off some of the calories you consumed earlier, but it gets your blood moving again. One of the issues that can developed from prolonged sitting is blood pooling in your lower extremities, which can cause deep-vein thrombosis – a potential life-threatening condition.
Another thing you can do while seated is to do some leg and foot exercises:
1. Leg Circles
2. And draw the alphabet
While sitting in front of the TV, keep your left leg bent, but straighten out your right leg. Make small circles to the right with your straightened leg for about 15 seconds. Gradually increase the size of the circles for an additional 15 seconds. Using the same leg, switch directions and repeat. Now switch legs and repeat the same circle sequence.
Drawing the Alphabet
While seated, lift one leg slightly off of the floor. Bend your foot forward so that your toes are just touching the floor. Now simulate drawing as many letters of the alphabet as you can. Drop your foot back down to the floor, raise again and continue drawing letters. Once done with the alphabet, switch feet and repeat.
You don’t have to give up watching your favorite TV shows – just do it smarter by watching what you eat, taking frequent standing or walking breaks and exercising while seated. Enjoy!