TED Ed: Why Sitting Is Bad For Your Health
I love to sit, don’t you?
Sitting to read. Watch TV. Sitting with friends.
Most of us sit all day at school or at work. Then, we become couch potatoes in the evening. But researchers warn we’re sitting so much, it’s bad for our health.
The problem, as this TED Ed animated video explains, is that people weren’t built by nature to sit so much. Some of the key points:
- Our body has 360 joints that enable fluid motion
- Skin is elastic, made to mold to our motions
- Blood needs us to move so it can circulate properly
- Sitting with a curved back and slumped shoulders puts uneven pressure on your spine, causing wear and tear on joints, muscles, and discs
- Hunching down shrinks your chest cavity, so you can’t breathe fully, so less oxygen gets into your lungs and blood
- Sitting too much squashes and compresses nerves and blood vessels, leading to numbness and swelling
- Being sedentary even de-activates an enzyme in the blood that breaks down fat, so sitting hurts your ability to burn fat effectively
- Since not as much blood and oxygen is getting to your brain, you can’t concentrate as well
- Sitting has even been linked to heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, kidney and liver problems, and may cause five million premature deaths per year!
Thankfully, There Are Easy Answers: Sit Up Straight and Move More
Yes, grandma was right: Sit up straight! It allows your chest to expand and let more oxygen in, while it also puts less strain on your back. And as for moving more, this recent New York Times article reports that moving for two minutes per hour has strongly positive health effects…yes, just two minutes!
Watch the whole video to learn more:
The “Dig Deeper” Section is Unusually Deep
There are a great many links to more information here, but let me provide seven highlights:
- Is there a link between increased mortality and time spent sitting? Read: Is sitting down bad for my health?
- Read more on how sitting too much can change one’s life expectancy.
- Interested in increasing or improving your lung capacity? STAND UP! If you do have to sit at work, learn which sitting posture is best.
- You’ve been sitting awhile, struggling over some math problems. Your legs automatically move and your calf muscles compress. Why? This article on the skeletal muscle pump will explain.
- Are you thinking about your lifestyle and what you spend your day doing? How can the school environment be changed to reflect what was learned in this lesson?
- How about “standing desks”?
- Need ideas to help you make changes? Read: Sitting Is The Smoking of Our Generation then listen to NPR’s: Stand Up, Walk Around, Even Just For 20 Minutes.
Are Students Sitting Too Much?
Even young, energetic kids are not immune to the dangers of sitting too long. Though they have the advantage of recess during the day and some play sports, many may be sitting for up to 7.5 hours a day, time spent sitting in class, on the bus, doing homework and using the computer or watching TV. And too much sitting can lead to health problems for these students later in life.
Some believe that sitting too long in the classroom may even interfere with learning. “All of our teachers believe that movement enhances learning,” says Kristen Hess, the principal and founder of Hess Academy. “The more you can use your body, the better you can learn concepts.” One of the advantages of an online learning environment is that students are free to get up and move around the room on occasion, or even learn while standing. Since traditional classrooms may not have that option, parents should ensure that their children don’t spend too much time sitting after school.
The message is simple for students and adults. To stay healthy, get a move on!
Michael Solow has worked as a teacher, journalist, and commercial writer/creative director. Michael has also taught high school English and junior high math, gaining his teaching certification from Vassar College and a master's degree in the teaching of writing and literature from George Mason University. His writing has been published in the New York Times, the San Francisco Review of Books, TheMorningNews.org, and the Hemingway Review. He is the proud dad of two grown daughters and the happy husband of an elementary school librarian.