Sitting is the most underrated health threat of our time. It has been unmasked as a major risk factor for early death and chronic disease. Some have called sitting, the new smoking. It’s really more like sun exposure, in that a short amount may be good for you, but too much is deadly. “But wait,” you protest, “I may sit all day at work, but I exercise three times a week.” The bad news is that exercise is not an antidote for sitting; it doesn’t negate the risk. Sitting, itself, is an independent risk factor for disease, apart from too little exercise.
Our lives are one big sit-fest. For work, we sit in our cars or commute on the bus, and we sit at our computers, in meetings and on conference calls. At home, we sit at the table for dinner, on the couch while watching TV and then possibly back onto a computer. And socializing means sitting with friends for coffee or a beer. Although the research into sitting is still in its infancy, the data is overwhelming. Professor David Dunstan, Head of the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute in Australia, has studied sedentary behavior for the past 14 years. He’s one of the key participants in the multi-country group that recently released the first guidelines for office workers.
How long can you sit before it’s too much? Although this is still unclear, the data suggests that after six hours, the health risks rise dramatically for every extra hour. Yet, for most of us, sitting for eight to ten hours a day is a norm.
What Happens When You Sit?
Sitting triggers multiple and concurrent effects within your body.
As soon as we sit down, the electrical activity in our leg muscles shuts off. That muscular activity is so important for most of the body’s metabolic processes, including clearing blood glucose and fat. When we sit for long hours, we reduce the blood flow throughout the whole body.
The good news is that there are simple, innovative ways to avert the deadly effects of sitting. Here are five of the best approaches:
Regardless of how much you exercise or how healthy your diet is, long periods of sitting will cause serious health problems. You can buffer the toxic effects of excessive sitting and significantly enhance your health by simply building movement and adding regular breaks into your daily routine. Don’t let the sitting disease erode your health.