Take a Stand for Your Health

The "Sitting Disease"

Published: November 06, 2014

In 2012, the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity reported that people spend 64 hours per week, or about nine hours per day sitting. Many office workers sit for more than 15 hours per day by working, driving, watching TV, or working on a computer. More and more research is being compiled that shows that all this sitting is very dangerous to our health. Prolonged sitting has been linked to such things as obesity, arthritis, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol and excessive body fat at the waist. Even people that are more fit can be at risk if they sit for long periods. Fit or fat, active or inactive people are at risk if they sit too much.

When your muscles, particularly in your legs, aren’t moving your circulation of blood as well as your metabolism slows. This causes you to use less blood sugar and to burn less fat. Elevated blood fats attribute to diabetes. Those that sit a lot have twice the risk of diabetes than those who don’t.

The American Institute for Cancer Research now also links prolonged sitting with increased risk of both breast and colon cancers. The Alberta Health Services – Cancer Care in Canada also has found prolonged sitting to be linked to breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers.

Sitting excessively can even affect your mood. A 2013 study of nearly 30,000 women attributed prolonged sitting to depression. Decreased movement results in decreased blood flow including the hormones that improve mood. Sitting too long can even make you feel more tired. When blood circulation slows while sitting, less nutrients and oxygen get to the muscles.

Further, prolonged sitting has been linked to chronic kidney disease and this is even a greater risk for women than men. The kidneys are responsible for keeping the blood clean and regulating levels in the body such as salt, pH, and blood pressure.

A recent study compared those who recreationally sit at a computer or watching TV less than two hours per day to those that do so for more than four hours daily. Those who watched more than four hours had nearly a 50% increased risk of death from any cause and 125% risk of cardiovascular disease such as chest pain or heart attack. This risk was separate from other risks like smoking.

Frequently, people sit with bad posture, especially at the computer. This can cause pain in the neck, back, knees or wrists. Muscles also become weaker, which can result in in jury or difficulty with moving in our everyday lives.

But there are ways you can help combat the effects of sitting. Exercise regularly, even if that is taking the dog for a walk or walking while on your break. You can incorporate short walks (even if just a minute) by picking up a fax or walking to a co-worker instead of calling. While at work, take breaks from sitting by standing, stretching, or frequently changing your posture. Standing at a countertop to write or to answer phones can break up sitting time. You can even do a “walk and talk meeting” or consider sitting on an exercise ball while at your desk. Even standing and moving for as little as one minute can actually make a difference. A study at Indiana University suggests that just three walks of five minutes each distributed throughout three hours of prolonged sitting reduced harm caused to the leg arteries.

A little bit of effort can go a long way in fighting the adverse effects of prolonged sitting.



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