You can easily find dozens of articles about the perverse effects of too much sitting, ranging from gaining weight to shortening your life span. But sitting for too long can affect you in more ways than you might think. Mainly, this affects your nerves and can lead to dozens of complications.
The recent work from home schemes workplaces put into place in response to the pandemic might have exacerbated the time people spent sitting. With snacks and drinks within reach and no meetings to attend or coworkers you need to get up to talk to, you might be sitting for longer than usual. In turn, your nerves might slowly be getting damaged.
Below, we explain how sitting for long periods damages your nerves and how you can minimize its effects.
1. Increased Blood Sugar
In 2015, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that a sedentary lifestyle leads to a 91 percent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar damages nerves, affecting their ability to send signals to the brain. What’s more, high blood sugar also weakens capillaries that supply oxygen and nutrients to nerve cells.
Several studies have suggested that sitting for long periods could increase blood pressure. This is why exercise and short breaks from inactivity are advised for people suffering from hypertension. Apart from the possibility of a heart attack, hypertension also affects the nervous system by reducing blood flow to the brain resulting in memory problems and contributes to the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
3. Pinched Nerves
Bones, muscles, and tissues out too much pressure on nerves from sitting for prolonged periods. This results in pinched nerves and can lead to neuropathy, which requires treatment. A pinched nerve is characterized by tingling, numbness, or pain radiating from the area where the nerves have been damaged. If you have pinched nerves from too much sitting, you’re likely to feel it in your lower back, neck, or legs.
4. Poor Blood Circulation
Sitting for an extended period squeezes blood vessels in the muscles. This reduces the supply of blood your muscles need to function. Ultimately, your blood will pool in your lower legs. Insufficient blood flow also deprives nerve cells of oxygen, which leads to nerve damage.
5. Muscle Deterioration
Sitting for hours on end means you’re letting your lower body lie still. This restriction in movement can cause the muscles to shrink, which can lead to partial or complete muscle deterioration.
Preventing Nerve Damage from Too Much Sitting
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 15 percent of all U.S. adults are physically inactive. Office jobs are a primary culprit for this inactivity and long periods of sitting. To combat its effects, do the following:
- Set a timer every 20 or 30 minutes and take that time to stand, walk, or stretch
- When you have to sit, maintain good posture to minimize pinched nerves
- At home, use commercial breaks as an opportunity to stand and stretch
- On your free time, find something to do like walking or gardening instead of sitting
Sitting for extended periods cannot be avoided sometimes, but the best thing you can do is stay active as much as possible.