The following is a summary of a beautiful review I saw in the ‘ Mayo Clinic Health Letter’.
It questions whether we are aware of the extent to which sitting is detrimental to our health.
“Most people sit for too long each day. Many U.S. workers sit for 15 hours a day. In the past 15 years a wave of research has shed new light on sitting as a serious health risk factor that’s snuck up on modern society.”
“Cars, home entertainment, computers, email, office work and labour-saving devices have made for a life of sitting that’s interrupted by small bouts of movement, and sometimes exercise. One study of 2,286 adults age 60 and older found that this group spent nine hours a day on average being sedentary–meaning sitting or lying down–during an average 14 hours of wake time!”
Why is sitting so harmful? Although the biology of sitting and its effects on the body isn’t fully understood, it appears that a key function of your muscles is to soak up blood sugar and blood fats for energy use. When you move around or even just stand, the largest muscles of your body are actively working to keep you upright and moving, and sucking up fats and sugar from your bloodstream.
When you sit for too long, blood sugar and blood fat levels don’t return to normal as readily. Over time, this may contribute to undesirable cholesterol levels, diabetes, storage of excess energy as body fat, damage to blood vessels that leads to cardiovascular disease and other unwanted changes. Thirty four chronic conditions have been associated with excess sitting.
One four year study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day of screen time, with those who spent more than 4 hours and found….a 52% greater risk of dying during the study, 2 times the risk of having a heart attack, 8% increased risk of colon cancer, 10% increased risk of endometrial cancer and 6 % increased risk of lung cancer.
They looked at adults who exercise yet don’t do much during the other 14 to 18 hours a day. To summarize briefly, “the authors estimated that one hour of continuous sitting negated the benefit of 15 minutes of moderately intense exercise”.
What can you do?
1. Get on your feet during screen time (walk around the house, do a chore, or watch shows while walking of a treadmill or sitting on a bike).
2. Make sitting and walking tasks. Walk around when you are on the phone. Read the paper while standing at the counter. Walk with your friends and chat versus sitting and chatting over coffee.
3. Force yourself to stand and walk over to a waste basket. Move the copying machine to someplace you have to walk to. Get off the bus one stop early or late.
Make conscious decisions to stand and move. Our society has become way too convenient to us, so we must make personal decisions to force ourselves to stand more and walk more. Some companies are now removing tables for meetings and have ‘standing meetings’; or have a work station where you can stand and work on your computer. Even for those of us who do a lot of exercise, I know there is way too much time simply sitting for large portions of the day.
Move more! You can do it. Stay healthy and never ever give up trying. Dr. Doug