You've never let your workout buddy down. You're one of the few who make the most of that gym membership. Not a week goes by without you getting your cardio in and covering all muscle groups. You even manage to squeeze Yoga and Tai Chi in before the weekend. And to think that all this work is as pointless as carrying water to the sea if you sit too much.
Don't Just Sit There...
According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, more than one half of the average person's day is spent sitting on their bums, watching TV or working at a computer (not to mention the time spent planted in the seat of a car while commuting to and from work or sitting down while eating a meal). How does all this chair time affect our health?
If you spend too many hours at a time planted like a tree, note what the health risks are:
- premature death from heart disease
- overweight or obesity
- insulin resistance (and Type 2 Diabetes) and high blood sugar
- poor circulation
- poor sleep
- back pain due to poor posture and spinal health
- more prone to depression
- suppressed lipoprotein lipase (LPL) which leads to high blood triglycerides (the type of fat that increases the risk of stroke and heart attack)
Are you off the hook if you exercise regularly? Research says not at all. Apparently, even those who regularly engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and meet the recommended amounts are at risk. Therefore, you may be an active couch potato but it's not enough.
Should these consequences surprise us? Not really, if we think about what our bodies were designed to do - to move, not to sit around all day long!
If most of your day is spent sentenced to a desk, chair, sofa, or in front of a screen, it may be time to stand up and read the rest of this article.
Fight Sitting Disease
Does this mean we should sell our chairs, boycott furniture stores and stand 24/7? Not quite. The trick is regular interruptions. Take as many little frequent, random movement breaks as possible. Stand up for a phone call, take a walking break (especially after a meal), take the stairs, walk to the closest coffee shop, fold laundry, stretch, or wash dishes.
Engage your muscles every chance you get. Instead of emailing a coworker or neighbor, deliver your message to them in person, face-to-face.
The journal Medicine and science in sports and exercise found that even 3 hours of uninterrupted sitting can be detrimental to endothelial function. Light activity breaks, however, prevented the impairment of endothelial function.
A study published in Occupational and environmental medicine found that regularly transitioning from a seated to a standing position every 30 minutes across the workday led to a significant reduction in fatigue, back pain, and better work productivity.
These frequent movement breaks are known as NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Take several minutes to do something NEAT every hour.
Thankfully, treating sitting disease is as easy as standing up. It's your choice: stand up now or medication, waiting rooms, and doctor visits later.
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Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(2):123-132.
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Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010 July ; 38(3): 105–113.