“Sitting while socially engaged might be something that’s very good for you. Likewise, sitting for a few minutes to decompress after a stressful day could be good for you.” –Jacqueline Kerr, Ph.D., associate professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego
Are you sitting down while reading this article? If so, we immediately have something in common because I’m sitting in front of my desktop computer writing.
How long have you been sitting?
What is sitting too much?
Under 2019 “Trending Articles” on the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health (PubMed) website, is the article, “Too Much Sitting: A Newly Recognized Health Risk.”
According to the PubMed article, even 30-minutes of continuous sitting is too long.
Are you sitting too much?
Some studies suggest sitting for a prolonged seven or eight hours may be bad for your health. However, according to the PubMed article, even 30-minutes of uninterrupted sitting can put you at risk.
What Are the Health Risks?
According to numerous studies:
- Obesity; Too Much Belly Fat
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT); Blood Clots
- Osteoporosis (weakened bones)
- Misalignment of the Neck, Shoulders, and Upper Spine
- Kidney Disease
- Increased Anxiety (you withdraw from friends)
- Early Death
Why Is Sitting Too Much Linked with Health Problems?
According to Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Health Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego, Harvard Medical School: “Scientists can’t explain it. And they emphasize that a link doesn’t prove that too much sitting causes these diseases. One possibility: Sitting for a long time causes muscles to burn less fat and blood to flow more sluggishly. Both can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other problems.”
To quote Harvard Medical School: “Researchers aren’t sure why prolonged sitting has such harmful health consequences. But one possible explanation is that it relaxes your largest muscles. When muscles relax, they take up very little glucose from the blood, raising your risk of type 2 diabetes. “
One aerobic instructor put it this way, “Blood is getting stuck in your legs, and pooled at your feet. If your knees are bent, you’re further impeding the return flow back to your heart. Sitting too long allows your metabolism to slow down.”
Dr. Barry Braun, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, says, “People who sit the most are most likely to be obese. However, are people obese because they sit too much, or do they sit too much because they are obese?” Thus, in some cases, it’s unclear which way the link goes.
What You Can Do to Stop the Negative Effects of Uninterrupted Sitting
Tip #1: Avoid long periods sitting in front of a TV or computer.
Tip #2: Set an alarm clock on your cell phone (on low) to remind you to stand up and stretch every 30 minutes or so.
Tip #3: Stand at your desk for part of the day; talk to your boss about a treadmill desk or set your computer on top of a box.
Tip #4: “Walk and talk” rather than “sit and speak” while on the phone.
Tip #5: Walk around the house, touch your toes, or do a few stretching exercises to relax the chest and hip muscles.
Tip #6: Maintain stuff yourself such as vacuuming, washing your car, and cutting the grass instead of paying others to do your chores to keep the blood pumping.
Tip #7: Exercise during commercial breaks when watching TV.
Does Physical Activity Compensate for Sitting?
No. Exercise is not an “antidote” to excess sitting, experts say.
Marc Hamilton, Ph.D. of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, says “It is increasingly clear that prolonged sitting is bad for everyone, whether they are fit or fat, or active or inactive.
“The experimental studies conducted by us and others are consistent in finding that sitting too much is unhealthy even in people who are not overweight and those who exercise regularly.”
Based on the expert and scientific studies quoted above, it seems clear that less sitting and more moving overall contribute to better health.
“Too much sitting overall and prolonged periods of sitting seem to increase risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, says Dr. Laskowski of Mayo Clinic.
Who wants that???
So, stand up, walk around, stretch, get out of the chair or off the couch and move your body!
As David Bolton, a physiotherapist says, “Motion is lotion.”
Here’s a link to Bowflex, fitness advisor, Tom Holland’s YouTube video called “3 Stretches for People Who Sit All Day.” This video is less than three minutes long.
It demonstrates how to stretch the back muscles that get super tight from sitting all day. The video shows how to open up your chest muscles to improve posture, especially if you sit hunched over a computer keyboard for hours on end.
I tried this exercise and found it to be super fun and useful.
Please, do not sit your life away. Think about the cost to your health, the pain, and the misery of your body. Keep your joints, loose, mobile, and active, and do so regularly—get moving!