The topic of sedentary jobs and health risks they have is extremely ‘hot’ today. A growing body of research indicates that these jobs literally kill people. And they do this in slow and excruciating ways. Sitting risks range from cancer, to type 2 diabetes, to early death. It seems that a sedentary lifestyle is at fault for the majority of modern health problems. This includes the epidemic of obesity and other metabolic disorders. The increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke also make the list.
Sedentary Jobs and Health Risks: Science-Based Facts
Some people today say that sitting down is the new smoking, but that’s not entirely accurate. Sitting for long hours at work is actually worse for you in the long run. At least smoking simply ruins your oral health and increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer. Health hazards of sitting jobs are more numerous:
1. Accelerated aging
Researchers compare the effects of sitting too long with those of living in zero gravity (NHS). Astronauts, forced to spend extended periods of time in these conditions, were subject to many studies. Those showed that this lifestyle speeds up aging. This also includes a faster rate of bone and muscle loss.
2. Back pain and increased risk of injury
That degradation of muscles and bones leads to osteoporosis and a variety of aches. This means your risk of falls and related injuries increases due to sedentary behavior. However, your company won’t pay your medical bills if you fall and get severe trauma outside of working hours.
3. Cardiovascular problems
Heart attacks, strokes, and any disease caused by poor circulatory system condition might be a result of that desk job. One shouldn’t forget that the majority of office workers are also extremely stressed. Combined with the weakening blood vessels and bad circulation, this is a recipe for a heart disease. Never forget that it claims over 610,000 lives a year in the US alone.
4. Type 2 diabetes and obesity
Sedentary jobs and health risks of such are associated with a higher occurrence of metabolic disorders. One of the reasons for this seems to be the fact that exercise is a major metabolism booster. Therefore, sitting all day literally makes your body shut down and your metabolism falls to the minimum. Considering this, it might not be McDonald’s and Coke that are at fault for the obesity epidemic of today. Instead, it’s all the office jobs that have become the most common type of work. Sadly, the rise of technology is only making the situation worse. Even many people in ‘working’ professions now spend their time in control rooms. They operate drones and robots remotely, which reduces some risks, but also puts their health in danger. This trend indicates that many professions that used to include active work might become desk jobs.
Sedentary jobs and lifestyle in general are a major contributing factor in a variety of cancers and cancer-related conditions (Harvard Medical School). The researchers are yet unable to determine the exact mechanism of how sitting all day at work affects tumor growth. However, it’s a proven fact that people in sedentary jobs have a higher occurrence of different cancers. The effect of sitting on metabolism and blood flow definitely play a big part in this.
6. Early death
A study published in the Annals of Medicine proves that sitting too long at work can cause an early death. That death might come for a variety of reasons. However, the fact is that people leading sedentary lifestyles tend to die prematurely.
Sadly, even exercising for some time during the day doesn’t offset the debilitating effects of a desk job. This means that 30-minute workout you do daily can help you lose weight. But it won’t do much for your health in the long run unless you reduce sitting time in the office.
List of Sedentary Jobs and Health Risks of Each (Beyond Sitting All Day)
- IT sector jobs.
Aside from sitting for hours IT professionals also suffer from headaches and can develop eyesight problems. These are the result of working with screens and poor lighting. Don’t forget frequent all-nighters, which can literally ruin your health on a genetic level (Popular Science).
- Any office jobs (from CEO to manager to intern paper-pusher, call center jobs included).
Working in an office is associated with increased levels of stress, which contributes to many mental conditions. Note that sedentary jobs and health risks they have include mental disorders as well. Depression is the most common.
- Transportation jobs.
This type of occupation has many mental and physical risks. The majority of them are due to isolation and extreme tension resulting from the need to be constantly alert. Also include all the health hazards of sitting and repetitive movements. Prolonged UV exposure is another thing that exacerbates faster aging in drivers. Irregular sleep schedule contributes to mental disorders and overall poor health.
- Legal professions.
Working at a law firm is associated with extreme levels of mental stress. This profession also often has an irregular sleep schedule because of frequent long hours.
- Teaching (and studying).
The education industry mostly consists of sedentary jobs and health risks they bring are compounded by the stress. Low pay definitely makes things much worse.
- Creative jobs.
Creative professions might seem like fun, but the majority of people who create art have to spend long hours sitting. People in these occupations often develop conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by repetitive injury.
How to Sit Less Every Day: Lifestyle Changes You Absolutely Have to Make
If you are working one of the hundreds sedentary jobs and health risks associated with them are unavoidable for you, it’s essential to be more active while at work. This will require some major lifestyle changes. The most basic health rule is to take a ‘walking break’ every 30 minutes. Having some basic fitness equipment nearby will be a great help for promoting your health. Even a 5-minute ‘workout’ every 30 minutes will give you a huge boost long-term. And think of all those calories you’ll burn! This should go into my ‘how to lose 10 kg in one month’ list.
Get a step counter app in your phone or a fitness bracelet. Basically, you should have some gadget reminding you to move when you get overwhelmed with work. Set an alarm for those 5-minute active breaks as you would a reminder for drinking (and use that one too!)
Walk everywhere you can instead of driving. This will save you money on gas, make a contribution to the fight against pollution, and make you healthier.
What do you do to sit less every day? Have you been aware of the extreme health risks of sedentary jobs before now? How do you think we can make our society more active and therefore healthy?
I’d love to read your ideas and stories in the comments.