If you sit more than you sleep, you may have Sitting Disease. That's the term used to describe a sedentary lifestyle. And even if you exercise for an hour a day – which very few people do -you're not off the hook. Sedentary is defined as a lack of whole body muscle movement for extended periods of time. So if you spend most of your day in a chair or a bed after that daily workout, you're sedentary!
Sitting, or long periods of inactivity, have been shown to raise your risk of developing obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The increased risk for disease associated with sitting is not the same thing as the recommendation to exercise more. Sitting for many hours a day is the problem. Exercise or other forms of physical activity are also important to good health, but for different reasons.
Even your life expectancy is impacted by sitting according to a study done by the American Cancer Society in 2010. Researchers looked at the amount of time spent sitting and being active in 123,216 individuals. They found women who sat the most and were the least physically active had a 94% higher likelihood of dying compared to women who sat less and moved more. For men the increased likelihood of dying was 48% higher.
The extended hours spent sitting have accumulated as jobs moved from field to office and walking was replaced by riding. Modern conveniences in our homes eliminate the need to chop wood, haul water and scrub clothes, so we have more time to sit and watch television. The very presence of so many "screens" in our lives – whether TV, computer or handheld - and the endless programs, movies, games and connections we can see on them keep us sitting even longer.
The problem is our bodies weren't designed for all this inactivity. Throughout human history survival required that we remain active and alert. The only time our ancestors weren't in motion was when they were sleeping.
The obesity epidemic has been blamed on too many calories and not enough exercise, but sitting is another contributing factor. Once you sit down the rate at which you burn calories drops to about 1 calorie per minute, regardless of how hard you are thinking. Standing increases the rate at which we burn calories by 10% while walking increases it by 150%!
Sitting has been described by some as the new smoking it's so damaging to our health. It's time to stand up and fight back against the Sitting Disease!
To put this information to use, all you need to do is stand up right now while reading the rest of this blog. Then build regular time-outs for standing into your day by doing things standing that you once did sitting. You can stand:
- Every time the phone rings and remain standing for all calls
- During all commercials when watching TV
- In line inside the bank instead of sitting in the car in the drive-through
- When reading at your desk for 10 minutes out of every hour
- On subways, in waiting rooms, at the boarding gate in the airport
- To change the channel on the TV or simply "lose" the remote
Check Just Stand! for more tips and information.
See related post on Exercise Can be Fun!