When you don't get enough activity and instead sit around all day, your muscles are at rest -- and this can take a big toll on your health. Your body was made to move and be active, so if you're spending the majority of your time at a desk or lazing around on the couch, you'll see the effects. Inactivity has major physical effects on your body as a whole, but also on certain muscle groups in particular.
Your Back Takes a Hit
The muscles in your back -- particularly the erector spinae muscles, which run parallel to your spine -- are affected when you remain inactive for long periods of time. Unless you're maintaining proper posture when you're sitting around, this can seriously affect your spine and even cause permanent problems such as back pain and damage to spinal structures. Always sit up straight without hunching over and use ergonomic chairs or furniture when possible.
No Good for the Gams
The legs contain more muscle groups than any other region of your body and therefore take a significant impact when you remain inactive for long periods of time. Even if you're just sitting for multiple hours, if it's a regular thing you're going to notice your quads, hamstrings, and calves are changing, becoming less toned and perky as your muscles get smaller and less defined. You might notice the effects first on your upper legs and hips, where fat deposits are common. This is largely due to the fact that fat in this area tends to be less metabolically active than the fat on other areas of the body, according to Dr. Mehmet Oz. Leg raises, leg extensions and hip flexion exercises are all simple movements that can be done at a desk.
Bad for the Butt
The gluteal muscles in your buttocks are some of the most affected muscles from inactivity. The buttocks is made up of three major muscle groups: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles. Over time, if you're sitting around and not working out these muscles, they become soft and undefined, leaving your butt looking flat and misshapen. Not only that, but there are potential health consequences as well, such as bouts of low back pain and conditions like piriformis syndrome. Whether you're on the couch watching your favorite show or at the office, it's easy to fit in a couple of minutes to do some squats or lunges to help keep those butt muscles toned and tight.
It Takes a Toll on Your Arms
If you spend a lot of time sitting around, you may also notice changes in the muscles in your arms because they're not active. There are a few major muscle groups that make up the arms -- the biceps sit at front on your upper arms, the triceps at back and the forearms in your lower arms. The triceps are a common area for fat deposits, meaning you're most likely to notice excess, flabby skin in this area on your arms. If you are spending time sitting around and have your hands free, use a dumbbell to do a few bicep curls or triceps kickback exercises to keep your arms toned, even when you're just sitting around.
Soft and Flabby Abs
Your abdominal muscles are also affected by inactivity. The rectus abdominis muscles sit at front, the obliques along the sides and the transverse abdominis, which is the deepest abdominal muscle, wraps around the sides and sits underneath the internal oblique muscles. Fat accumulation and muscle deterioration is typically most noticeable first along the front and sides of your waist. One easy way to help avoid this is to engage your core, even when you're just sitting at your desk or lounging around. You do this by tucking your lower abdominal muscles in, so you can feel tightness in your abs.
Make the Right Changes
If you do work an office job or work elsewhere where you spend most of your day sitting down, there are ways to stay active. To prevent the negative consequences to your health, do what you can to fit in as much physical activity as possible through your day. Lift dumbbells on your lunch break, walk to work instead of taking your car and use the stairs instead of riding the elevator. Even the seemingly smallest steps you take will make a difference and help you maintain better health.
- ExRx.net: Erector Spinae
- Spine Health: Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics
- Brian Mac: Gluteal Muscles
- NBC News: Are You Sitting Down? It's Slowly Killing You
- Harvard Medical School: The Real-World Benefits of Strengthening Your Core
- The Dr. Oz Show: Fat Busters for Your Biggest Problem Areas