The World Health Organization (WHO) named sedentary behavior as the number four risk factor for major disease and death globally.
The number one culprit: sitting.
This is especially distressing to the millions (if not billions) of us who spend a lot of time on our butt. I personally spend a lot of time sitting in front of my computer with workdays that consistently surpass ten or twelve hours. “Downtime” (when I get it) is usually spent chatting with friends (also sitting) or catching up on episodes of my favorite shows I’ve missed.
Is it possible that something as innocent as sitting is bad for you?
At first, I thought the information might be wrong. After all, when I’m not sitting, I’m walking and running errands. I try to fit yoga in a few days a week. Surely, that helps keep me out of the danger zone.
Unfortunately, it does not.
Distressed by the research I found while planning this article, I’m standing up. I’m not kidding. I’ve been sitting all day long – approximately eleven hours now – and I am honestly afraid to sit down anymore.
All these years, I’ve never truly classed myself as having a sedentary lifestyle. All of my previous assurances to myself that other activity made up for long hours in my chair have been revealed as nothing more than illusions.
Too much sitting is bad for you and researchers have the data to back it up.
Think about how much you actually sit down during the day. I don’t have a commute but I sit in front of my computer long enough to make up for spending time sitting in a car. You sit down for meals. You sit down to socialize (real world and virtual). You sit down to read, write, and watch television. You sit down to watch sporting events and movies. You sit while traveling.
You sit down for just about everything throughout your day and if the sum total “butt in chair time” is more than three hours, you are setting yourself up for a big problem.
According to the Educational Testing Service, 40% of employed American adults work in the office sector. Chances are they spend a lot of time sitting at some sort of desk. These numbers are expected to continue to grow as technology races forward.
How Bad is Sitting for You?
During their analysis of almost 50 studies focused on sedentary lifestyle, researchers from Toronto discovered that even regular exercise doesn’t counter the effects of sitting for long periods of time.
This is because the amount of time we’re sitting down is so much higher than any other activity. The sitting cancels out the good stuff!
The Annals of Internal Medicine reported that we drastically increase our risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and even cancer. In fact, your risk of being diagnosed with a chronic illness such as diabetes is 90% higher if you regularly sit for 8-12 hours a day!
I do that. That is a daily occurrence in my life.
Scientists are now linking prolonged sitting to poor sleep quality, organ damage, bone and joint malfunction, blood clots, lung distress, and even a decrease in brain cognition.
Women, sitting is so bad for you that if you get in the habit of parking your butt in a chair for 6 hours or more each day, your risk from dying prematurely of any cause is 40% higher than those who don’t sit as much!
Three Steps to Break the Sitting Cycle
- Know how much you sit. I was blown away when I roughly calculated my time working, driving, relaxing, and eating over the last two weeks during a heavy deadline. It was a whopping 18 hours a day! That number has made me more conscious of the problem and you better believe I’m going to try to work it down.
- Stand when you can. For me, my business world is on my computer. I have no choice but to be in front of it. When your name is on the door, you work as many hours as it takes. I have a narrow bar along my kitchen that I’ll be using for part of the day on my laptop. I plan to set timers so I don’t become so engrossed that I forget to get up. That high shelf is also going to be where I stand to eat lunches and talk on the phone.
- Stop skipping ads and commercials. Let them play and you take a lap. Even if you walk from your living room to your back door or stand beside your couch for however long it plays, use it as a timed exercise break. This is helpful for me during the day as I listen to my online streaming music. When the ads play…stand up, move around, maybe even get a good stretch session in.
You don’t have to go crazy at the gym and I learned that as much as I truly do sit, too much impact cardio can damage stiffened joints and muscles more quickly. Low impact movements after you’ve been sitting all day is a good way to protect your back, loosen the stiffness that builds after too many hours in one position, and warm you up.
Experts suggest ten minutes of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) for every hour that you’re awake. Stretching, gentle movements that remind your metabolism that it needs to stay alert and improve circulation throughout your body.
5 Suggestions to Keep it NEAT
- Stand when you’re on a phone call or surfing the internet
- Pull over every 2 hours during long car rides and take a short walk
- Take walks during meetings if you can rather than sitting
- A walk after meals helps digestion as well as the negative effects of sitting
- Set a timer on your phone to remember to get up and give yourself a break
Cooking, cleaning, and sex are all excellent low impact activities that help keep your body healthy and happy. Ignoring this strange problem is going to lead to major problems down the road for the office sector, dispatchers, and transportation workers who spend many hours sitting in one place.
Sitting is bad for you, for me, for everyone. We have got to stand up.