Sitting Is the New Smoking
By now, you’re probably aware of all of the negative health effects of smoking. Among other issues, smoking can cause heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, increased plaque in the arterial walls, and back pain. But did you know that sitting for prolonged periods of time can also cause these same conditions?
Think about how much time you spend sitting on a daily basis. Factor in your commute to and from work or play, time spent sitting at a computer or on your phone, watching television, or just lounging. According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, over half of the average person’s waking hours are spent sitting, and this sedentary behavior is hazardous to our health and our bodies.
Coronary Artery Disease
Studies have shown that the risk of developing coronary artery disease drastically increases in those individuals who sit for long periods of time during the day. Researchers found that every hour of sitting increases your coronary artery calcification by 14 percent! This calcification severely increases your risk for a heart attack!
What’s worse is that studies showed the correlation between calcification and exercise! That means that not even daily exercise is enough to combat the negative effects of sitting all day.
Every hour you spend sitting increases your risk of diabetes by 22 percent, even if you exercise regularly. Evidence shows that being sedentary has a negative effect on glucose levels and increases insulin resistance.
“When we sit for long periods of time, enzyme changes occur in our muscles that can lead to increased blood sugar levels,” says Emma Wilmot, MD. “The effects of sitting on glucose happen very quickly, which is why regular exercise won’t fully protect you,” she says.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time also has a negative impact on your spine as well. It causes stress on the joints, especially in the low back. “Sitting puts almost twice the amount of stress on the spine as standing,” says Dr. Davis of the Davis Clinic of Chiropractic. “Hunching forward increases the pressure even more. Your joints need to move in order to get the proper nutrition to the spinal discs and to keep them hydrated. Immobility starves the discs of vital nutrients.”
If you’re already suffering from back pain, sitting can exasperate your condition.
What You Can Do
Fortunately, there is a way to almost completely offset the negative effects of sitting all day, and the answer is easier than you might think. Studies have shown that two minutes of light-intensity activity every hour reduces the risk of death by over 33%! If you spend most of your day behind a desk, it’s extremely important to take some time each hour to do some light exercise.
Ways to Get up and Get Moving
- Take the stairs
- Park at the far end of the parking lot
- Wear a Pedometer or a FitBit and try to increase your steps each week
- If possible, deliver a message in person rather than emailing a coworker
- Set an alarm to remind you to get up every hour and walk around or change activities
- Limit watching TV to 1 hour a day
- Find new hobbies that don’t involve sitting
- Start a walking club with your friends
- Instead of driving to the store, walk if possible
- Invest in a standing desk or table for the office
“Today’s more modernized offices are concerned – now more than ever—with the health and well-being of its employees. Office furniture is adapting to meet the needs of a more health-conscious office worker, and that starts with the standing desk,” says Brent Stoller of Workspace Solutions. ”Standing desks allow the user to combat a lot of the negative health effects that are facing society today due to long-term sitting.”
The effects of prolonged sitting are not reversible. Just like smoking, sitting is bad for our health and the only way to combat it is to get off our butts. Sit less, do more!