Some startling information has begun circulating regarding the risk of sitting for extended periods of time. Yes, you heard that right – “sitting”. After a hard day’s work most of us want to take a well-earned rest and catch up on some of our favorite shows, which is understandable. However, studies are emerging that suggest sitting for too long can actually be harmful to your health.
What Are the Dangers of Sitting?
That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Of course, there are no actual risks associated with just popping a squat in your chair for a little bit. This information covers the risks accompanied by forming a “sitting routine” wherein you sit for hours on end. Whether it is necessary for your job or just a way to relax, studies show that becoming immobile is actually shaving years off of our lives.
For example, research says that the overall death rate for men who sit for six hours per day or more increases about 20%. For women, that equates to a 40% increase. In addition, the life expectancy for a US citizen has slightly dropped for the first time in over 20 years due to lack of exercise. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Well, I’m not here to just scare you with statistics. Let’s take a look at some of the research behind sitting.
Science Behind Sitting
You’ve probably heard people making claims that “television is rotting our minds” or “video games turning your brain to mush.” Well, they might have been right in a way, but not in the way that you think.
There is no data to back up the claim that watching too many movies or playing too many video games deteriorates the mind. Yet, it has been proven that sitting prone for too long does degrade the body. Here’s how: first, your muscles aren’t being used. When your body stops all movement for too long, your brain starts to slow down the electrical impulses sent to those muscles that tell them to move. Your brain always has to be on the ready in case you need to use any part of your body at any given moment.
When you’re stationary for too long, your body gets confused and starts to communicate with your brain that your muscles don’t need moving. This will slow your metabolism way down and can make you feel perpetually tired. This also means that any calories going into your body aren’t burned for fuel. They’re stored for when your body thinks it might start moving again. As a result, your body doesn’t burn as many calories. Your muscles begin to weaken and eventually deteriorate, and extremely crucial substances in the body (such as insulin) become weaker and less effective as well.
Not to mention, many folks who sit for six or more hours per day can begin to form postural issues and neck and back pain. Blood flow becomes weaker throughout the body, which can cause soreness in the extremities and eventually lead to weak veins and circulation altogether. Hopefully, you’re starting to see how this can essentially “snowball” into a much larger issue over time.
How to Break the Cycle
It’s as easy as moving every hour of the day. This doesn’t mean you have to turn into an athlete overnight. Just let your body do what it naturally does and stay active as much as you can. If that means getting out of your seat and just taking a quick lap around your home or office, get to it! If your job requires that you sit for most of the day, talk with your employer about small breaks throughout the day. Many employers even offer fitness memberships at a discounted price. Take advantage of any and all benefits you might be wasting in the workplace.
Set attainable goals for yourself wherever possible. For example, “walk 15 minutes per day” or “go on one bike ride per week” are small attainable goals that will undoubtedly get the ball rolling. Need even more convincing? Here are some numbers. Going for a casual walk burns 200 calories per hour. That would be about 50 calories per 15 minutes. Going for a brisk walk will burn about double that amount. Doing simple tasks around the house, like folding laundry, burns about 100 calories per hour. That would be about 25 calories per 15 minutes.
On the other hand, sitting only burns a total of 5 calories per hour.
You might be thinking that the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” is overkill, and you’d be right. Sitting for extended periods does not produce the lasting and extraordinarily damaging effects that smoking does. However, it should be taken seriously. If you are experiencing issues that you feel could be caused by sitting too often and/or on a daily basis, luckily these problems can be completely reversed simply by getting active. That’s it! Just get up and do something.
This is not meant as a remedy for those with unrelated health issues that require resting the body for extended periods of time. Outstanding health issues not related to sitting should always be discussed with your doctor and you shouldn’t try any physical activity that you think could hurt your body or worsen a pre-existing condition.