Sitting is the New Smoking!

Sitting can be as bad for your health as smoking. See the many ways that sitting is shortening your life and why being active is so vital for your health.
Resource Writing Department

Anyone who sits for hours each day is at risk of developing a variety of health issues. Sitting can be as bad for your health as smoking. Spending hours sitting at a desk each day can lead to cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, and, much like smoking, the effects are not reversible through exercise or other healthy habits.

Sitting too much is dangerous to your health. It is a fact that prolonged sedentary time is bad for your heart and blood vessels even if you are physically active and exercise regularly.

Organizations are trying to find a way to incorporate more standing into the workday to help employees stay healthy.  

“Sitting can be detrimental to your health, so reducing your exposure to it—by no matter how little—can help,” said Jonathan Dugas, Ph.D., director of health and research at the Vitality Institute, developer of an incentive-based wellness program.

Standing up also increases productivity, as well as tones muscles, burns more calories, improves posture, and ramps up metabolism. Adjustable stand-up desks, help people to be less sedentary at their job. In order to prevent some of the health issues, researchers recommend a range of 2 to 4 hours of varied movement—standing, walking, and other activities—in a typical 8-hour day – considering we work 12 we should be making sure to get up and be more active —and we can easily add activity and movement into their day.

The key is to not get locked in either position for too long by sitting or standing and taking standing/sitting breaks and walks to clear your mind and refresh. Movement helps us stay fresh and productive. Using just one posture—static sitting or static standing—puts strain on the body and can drain a person’s energy. In addition to physical health problems, this can lead to cognitive issues like poorer cognition and disengagement.

Standing a little more each day tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, ramps up metabolism, and burns extra calories.

Did you know?    Ways Sitting is Shortening Your Life

Highly Sedentary People Have a Greater Risk of Developing Cancer

According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which looked at more than 4 million individuals and 68,936 cancer cases, sitting for long periods of time increases your risk for colon, endometrial and, possibly, lung cancer. The study found that even in physically active individuals, sitting increased the risk, and the risk worsened with each two hour increase in sitting time.

Frequent Sitters Have a Greater Risk of Developing Heart Disease

study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that men and women who sat more than six hours a day died earlier than their counterparts who limited sitting time to 3 hours a day or less. The study surveyed 53,440 men and 69,776 women who were healthy at the start of the study and over the course of the 14-year follow-up they saw a higher rate of mortality among the frequent sitters.

Sitting Increases the Risk of Obesity

It’s widely known that exercise and a healthy diet are two major factors in maintaining a healthy weight, but there is a third important factor for weight control, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic—moving throughout the day. In a study on weight gain and loss, where every aspect of diet and exercise was controlled in a lab, the researchers added 1,000 calories to all of the subjects daily diets. None of the people were permitted to exercise, but some people in the study were able to maintain their weight, while others gained weight. The researchers couldn’t understand why some were able to avoid gaining weight without exercise. How did they keep from gaining weight? Those who maintained their weight did so by unintentionally moving more throughout the day. 

Prolonged Sitting Increases the Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

Sitting for extended periods effects blood sugar levels and insulin in the body, meaning not only are sedentary people more likely to be obese, but they are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. An article published in Diabetologia examined the results of 18 studies with nearly 800,000 participants and determined that those who sat the most were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as the individuals who sat least.

Frequent Sitters are Susceptible to Muscular Issues

Muscles are healthiest when they are being used and challenged on a regular basis, so it’s not surprising that staying seated for eight or nine hours a day might bring some negative repercussions. Muscles are pliable but when locked in sitting position for the majority of the day, everyday, they do get stiff. After years of constantly sitting the body is used to sitting and not as proficient at running, jumping or even standing. Researchers believe this might be part of the reason elderly people have such a hard time getting around later in life.

Constant Sitting Interferes with LPL

LPL or lipoprotein lipase is an enzyme that breaks down fat and uses it as energy, when the enzyme isn’t working as it should, that fat is stored. In a study published in The Journal of Physiology, mice were tested for LPL levels in three states—laying down for most of the day, standing for most of the day and exercising. LDL activity in the laying mice was very low, levels rose more than 10 times when the mice simply stood but exercise had no additional effects on the LDL levels in the mice’s legs. The researchers expect the results to carry over in humans too. The larger point is that people can’t combat the effects of sitting with a half hour or hour of exercise alone—standing throughout the day is the answer.

Sedentary Habits are Associated with Higher Risk of Developing Depression

With hours and hours of sitting associated with higher sickness and mortality rates, who wouldn’t be depressed? The news is both terrifying and disheartening, but knowing about the risks isn’t the reason frequent sitters are more often depressed. Researchers say since sitting reduces circulation it’s harder for “feel-good hormones” to make their way to receptors. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine followed 9,000 middle-aged women and determined that those who sat longer and did not meet minimum exercise requirements suffered from depression at much higher rates compared with the women who sat less and exercised more. When it came to sitting, those who sat for more than seven hours a day were 47 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those who sat four hours or fewer. On the exercise front, women who didn’t exercise at all had a 99 percent higher risk of developing depression than those who met minimum exercise requirements. Researchers concluded physical activity could alleviate depression symptoms and likely prevent future symptoms.

Bottom Line – Get Moving  – Physical activity and Sitting

A large recent review combining data from over one million participants found 60-75 minutes of physical activity a day eliminated the harms of sitting when it came to measuring death from cardiovascular disease or death by all causes.  One possible explanation observed is that participants were protected by their high levels of physical activity.

This suggests it’s particularly important to find ways to allow office workers forced to spend many hours a day in front of a computer to add physical activity to their daily routine.

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