If you're sitting while reading this, you may want to stand up. That advice goes for anything else you now do seated in a chair or on a couch. Research published this month in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics placed the danger of sitting too much right up there with cigarette smoking.
Are you up out of your chair yet?
I've written about the "sitting disease" before, but the evidence is mounting that the hazards of sitting for long periods of time are a bigger problem than originally believed. It has even acquired a new term: Sedentarism.
What is Sedentarism and How Do You Get It?
The most important thing researchers have to say about sedentarism is that it is not the opposite of being physically active. That is what sedentary means. People who do not regularly engage in physical activity are sedentary.
Sedentarism is a condition that affects even the most committed exercisers. It occurs when you spend prolonged periods of time sitting or lying down, whether commuting, working at a desk, watching television, reading or sleeping. If that is how you spend more than half your day, you cannot escape sedentarism by meeting the recommended daily guidelines for exercise.
This unique disease of sustained inactivity is a result of the many changes in what we do at work and in our leisure time.
Since the 1950's there has been a steady decline in jobs requiring moderate physical activity in the U.S. By 2008, more than 80% of all jobs were considered light activity or sedentary, meaning they are done while seated.
Things have gotten less physically demanding when we're not at work, too. Washing machines, clothes dryers, frost-free refrigerators, self-cleaning ovens, dish washers and dozens of other work-saving appliances and products have lightened the load at home. The new-found free time has given us more time to sit down and watch television or search the Internet, and endure longer commutes to and from work.
The only problem is all that non-stop sitting is killing us.
What Can We Do to Avoid Sedentarism?
As I said in the beginning of this article, it helps to stand up more often. You don't have to do jumping jacks, just get out of your chair. The goal is to build more standing time into your day to break-up the long stretches of sitting.
Some people are mounting their computers on treadmills so they can slowly walk while working. If that isn't likely to go over too well in your cubicle, try some of these ideas.
You can stand at work:
- Talking on the phone
- Speaking to someone in the office/work space
- Reading documents
- Taking meal and drink breaks
- During meetings
- Waiting for appointments
You can stand more at home:
- During television commercials
- Text messaging
- Following friends on Facebook
- Waiting to pick up the kids
- In line (at the bank, pharmacy, Dunkin Donuts) instead of using the drive-through
- Reading mail, newspaper, school/community bulletins
If you're still sitting, you haven't been paying attention. This time stand up and read it again!