Show of hands… how many of you knew that simply sitting at your desk or on the couch could actually be detrimental to your health?? It sounds rather strange, but alas, it’s true. Lots of research has shown that too much sitting, can in fact, lead to many negative consequences. Several studies have even linked too much sitting with earlier death. Yikes!
What’s interesting, and perhaps a little scary, is that even if you’re a regular exerciser, too much sitting STILL puts you at higher risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and becoming disabled (according to WebMD.com). So you may run for an hour, but then sit at your desk for 8 hours. That run might not undo the damage from sitting so many hours.
Although there’s a mountain of research that documents the negative health effects of sitting too much, scientists still don’t have the definitive answer as to WHY sitting is so bad. We do know that human beings are meant to be active. We’re meant to be upright and moving around. One theory is that muscles become sluggish and don’t burn as many calories, and blood flow slows down when we sit. Sitting is also linked to increased hunger. So basically, if your muscles are inactive, they’re burning fewer calories. And that can increase the risk of obesity, which we know increases the risk of a plethora of diseases. So it might simply be a domino effect: sitting burns fewer calories and makes you hungry, so you eat more and gain weight. The increased weight is linked to disease, which is linked to death!
So what can you do to fight the “sitting disease?” Well, the answer is pretty simple: move more. Take “moving breaks” every half hour to hour. Get up and walk around. Walk to the water cooler to fill up your water bottle (also make sure you’re drinking enough water) or to talk to a co-worker. Go walk up and down a flight of stairs a few times. Get up and do a few jumping jacks to get your heart rate up. Park in the furthest spot from the door. Take a longer walk during your lunch hour when at work. Use a stability ball instead of a chair at your desk (I do this for my at-home work station). Even standing more often helps. Stand while talking on the phone or while talking to people. Some companies even offer employees standing desks.
Of course, all of this is in addition to your daily workout (as we know, it’s important to still work up a sweat. These smaller movements, while important, don’t really do that).
The “sitting epidemic” is easy to fix. Get off your couch, get up from your chair and simply stand (I’m standing while writing this) and/or walk around.