Have you heard? Sitting is the new smoking. The average American sits 6.5 hours per day. Those with a desk job are sitting even more, usually anywhere from 8 to 11 hours a day. As it turns out, according to many different studies, the average 6.5 hours per day is too much. In fact, a person isn’t considered low risk for the effects of sitting unless they sit less than 4 hours a day.
Also interesting, a study by the American Journal of Epidemiology which followed 123,000 people for 13 years found that women who spend more than 6 hours a day sitting down were 37 percent more likely to die sooner than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day.
What’s more, these risks were completely unrelated to how much exercise the women reported getting. That means, no matter how much you exercise while not sitting, the number of hours you sit still affects your body negatively. This means your only option to improve your risk level is to try to sit less. As little as possible.
What Can Happen If You Sit Too Much
Increased risk for anxiety:
Many studies have reported those who sit more than six hours a day report more symptoms of anxiety than those who sit three or less hours a day.
Increased risk for depression:
A study that followed 9,000 middle-aged women found that women in the group who sat longer than seven hours per day and didn’t meet minimum exercise suggestions were 47% more likely to suffer from depression than those who sat four hours or fewer.
Weak/shortened muscles and bad posture:
Sitting for prolonged periods of time daily causes a range of issues for your muscles. Your posture suffers because your muscles become too weak to support good posture consistently. Your glutes become weak, your hip flexors begin to shorten, your balance and stability worsen. You develop muscle imbalances, set yourself up for injury, and then comes the dreaded low back and hip pain and discomfort.
Increased risk for diabetes and heart disease:
Sitting for long periods of time consistently can cause changes in the body’s fat metabolism and may contribute to insulin resistance and heart disease. Researchers suggest reducing the amount of time you spend sitting and lying down can drastically reduce your chances of developing either disease.
Increased risk for osteoporosis:
Your bones are living tissue. They get stronger or weaker with your activity and diet, among other factors. Impact, even low-impact like walking, will stimulate bone growth and affect your bone density and strength. The more you sit, the weaker your bones will be.
Increased risk of cancer:
Sitting for long periods of time increases your risk for some cancers. According to one study, that looked at more than 4 million individuals and 68,936 cancer cases, sitting increases cancer risks by 66% and the risk worsened with each two-hour increase in sitting time.
Fat storage increases:
Sitting too much lowers our lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme that breaks down fat and uses it for energy. In a study done on mice, their LPL level was low while lying down and rose to levels more than 10 times higher when they simply stood up.
High risk of obesity:
In a study where researchers added 1,000 calories per day to the participant’s diets and didn’t permit any exercise, some people in the study were able to maintain their weight simply because they unintentionally moved more throughout the day rather than sitting around.
Increased risk of deep vein thrombosis:
Deep vein thrombosis is a condition in which blood clots form in the large veins of your legs. Sitting increases the risk of these clots forming because circulation in the legs is slowed. Blood clots are dangerous because when/if they break free they can travel into the narrow blood vessels of the lungs and cause death.
Standing should be a priority at all times, not just at work.
Here are some ways you can stand/move more in general:
- Use a fitness tracker that reminds you to stand/walk or just set a timer on your phone or watch
- Always walk when you can and always park farther away than you have to
- Use a standing desk if you can. Or make a habit out of standing or pacing every time you’re on a phone call
- Use a balance ball chair instead of a regular desk chair. The ball requires more effort to maintain balance and posture which will help keep your metabolism up
- Take walks on your lunch breaks and shorter breaks throughout the day
- Use a smaller cup so you have to get up for refills more often
- Stretch while watching TV
- Invite your friends for strolls around town instead of sit down coffee dates
- Dance often (my favorite tip)
With our unique lives and routines, there are probably many ways you can keep moving that I didn’t mention here. I would love for you to respond to this email and share those ideas with me!