How Sitting Became The New Smoking

We are not built to sit all day.

Can sitting be dangerous to your health?

Many of us are stuck sitting in a chair all day either for work or school. When we leave work, we sit in a car, stuck in traffic. When we eventually make it home we sit for a few hours to relax.

You shouldn’t change your job or get rid of your car because of excessive sitting. You should know the dangers sitting for long periods of time and what you can do about it.

sitting at desk

Second hand smoke is everywhere, whether from someone smoking a cigarette or another pollution in the air, and we’ve been educated on the dangers of smoking and what second hand smoke and can do to you.

You’ve been told about the dangers of junk food, too much sugar and trans fats. What you may not have heard about is how excessive time spent sitting and a sedentary lifestyle could be worse for your health than being obese according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Knowing how bad sitting is for your health will likely give you the motivation to start taking some extra steps to better health. At the end of the article you’ll also get tips for dealing with long periods of sitting and reversing the negative effects.

Real Danger of Prolonged Sitting

Prolonged sitting is one aspect of a sedentary lifestyle.

If you don’t know what that means, a sedentary lifestyle basically is what the average person in the US does in their daily routine: goes to job and sits for hours, goes to eat and sits for hours, goes home and sits for hours. It’s not an active lifestyle.

Work and leisure all involve sitting or reclining in one position with minimal movement. Even laying down in bed for too long poses severe health risks. This is due mostly because of severe muscle loss from the lack of activity.

What are the dangers of sitting too much?

According to researchers, a person with a sedentary lifestyle faces a six times increase in risk of death. This is most likely due to an increase in insulin resistance. What does an increase to insulin resistance do to your body?

Those with a low sensitivity to insulin will have higher blood pressure, generally have difficulty losing weight, and are more likely to develop diabetes. Insulin is a powerful hormone in the human body and it has an important role in regulating blood sugar, carbohydrate storage and muscle growth.

Sitting was shown to reduce the action of insulin in BOTH men and women by 40%.

Another study explored how sedentary habits like sitting to watch TV for a few hours affected adult health. The researchers found a connection between sedentary habits and an increase in the risk for premature death. We’re not saying to throw away your TV or that your favorite television program is killing you. The point is to evaluate how much time you spend sitting versus being active.

Combine a life of inactivity with other bad habits like a poor diet and you have a recipe for an unhealthy life.

Other “Office Habits” Bad for Your Health

We call them “office habits” because most of these habits and routines have been formed in the late 20th century and 21st century work environments and classrooms.

Sitting is only one dangerous sedentary habit.

Another indoor danger includes prolonged exposure to artificial fluorescent lights. Sitting under these lights all day throw off your natural circadian rhythm.  Compared to the problem of prolonged sitting, this is easier to fix: get more sunlight before work, and wear blue blocking glasses while working indoors, and especially on computers.

What can be done about sitting?

Ways to Reverse the Negative Effects of Sitting

If sitting is the new smoking, here are some ways to stop this bad habit and reverse the negative effects. The number one way to fix your life long-term would be by getting a standing desk. While standing all day isn’t great for you either, a standing desk, and an adjustable especially, allow you to switch between a sitting and standing position while working at a desk. Although it can feel awkward at first, it eventually becomes as natural as standing or sitting.

desk_standing

Here’s a helpful piece of information: a lot of companies are open to covering the cost or offsetting the cost of a standing desk if you bring it up to the Human Resources department as a health concern.

The next best way to go about reversing the negative effects of sitting is to take frequent standing and walk breaks throughout the day. Incorporating some basic stretching also helps to increase circulation and maintain flexibility.

For those with jobs that require prolonged sitting; a good goal is to stand up, walk and stretch for 2 minutes every 20 minutes whenever possible. Studies show that walking for just 30 minutes each day (Only 3 hours a week) can lower risk of heart disease by 30%-40%!

For those who say they could be busy working during those times, ask yourself really, how often do you take a short “break” at work and stare at your phone or go on some random website for a few minutes? Instead of doing that you can take a quick walk.

The studies referenced in this article have found the negative effects of prolonged sitting were quickly reversed with only a relatively small amount of physical effort. Moderate, short bursts of walking, and long periods of standing and daily exercise were found to decrease the risks found in a sedentary lifestyle.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404815/
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0037696#pone-0037696-g002

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