Sit Down, Die Young

Aug 25

Sit Down, Die Young

If you’re sitting at your desk while reading this, you might want to stand up! Sitting for prolonged periods seems to seriously affect your life span, according to the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Most of us spend a good 8 hours a day sitting at our jobs, and then 2-3 hours in the evening sitting in front of the tube. Some of us are still energetic enough to go to the gym regularly, but the unfortunate truth is that even going to the gym doesn’t counteract the damaging effects of sitting for long periods of time. According to the American Cancer Society, the issue isn’t so much how active are you as it is how many hours a day you spend sitting that directly affects your death rate.

Knowing how much time I spend at my desk, or curling up with a good book on the sofa, I decided to do some research to see what this is all about.

According to an article on businessweek.com:

“People need to understand that the qualitative mechanisms of sitting are completely different from walking or exercising,” says University of Missouri microbiologist Marc Hamilton. “Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. They do completely different things to the body.”

fitnessblog.projo.com stated:

“Lack of physical activity is not the same as ‘too much’ sitting,” said Neville Owen PhD, professor of health behavior at the University of Queensland in Australia. “We used to think that just exercising was the answer. Exercising is still very important, but in addition, we are learning that too much sitting may be in itself a problem.”

“The key may be in the function of muscles in the legs, back and neck that help maintain posture during standing and light exercise,” according to the center’s Web site. “These postural muscles seem to have a larger role in the processing of fat and cholesterol than was previously understood. As a result, people who sit for a long time without getting up and exercising these postural muscles may experience health problems – despite getting regular exercise during other parts of the day.”

Apparently, after around four hours of sitting, these postural muscles go dead, and this signals the genes that regulate our body’s fat and glucose to stop producing a key enzyme (lipase) that sucks fats from the bloodstream.   This, then, causes those fats to build up in the arteries.

Health.com reports that sitting for extended periods of time can cause ‘back pain, repetitive stress injuries, obesity and even an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.’ Also, it can flatten out the curve of the lower back and put strain on the upper body, shoulders, and arms.

machineslikeus.com shared research that shows how women are even more susceptible to the issue than men!

Women who reported more than six hours per day of sitting were 37 percent more likely to die during the time period studied than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat fewer than 3 hours per day. The association remained virtually unchanged after adjusting for physical activity level. Associations were stronger for cardiovascular disease mortality than for cancer mortality.

When combined with a lack of physical activity, the association was even stronger. Women and men who both sat more and were less physically were 94% and 48% more likely, respectively, to die compared with those who reported sitting the least and being most active.

calorielab.com shared some interesting numbers that can help us gauge how we’re doing:

A six-year study of nearly 9,000 Australians, reported online in Circulation, has found that for every hour spent watching TV per day, the watcher’s chances of death due to heart attack rose by 18 percent, and his or her chances of dying, period, went up by 11 percent. Those who watched the tube for four or more hours per day were 80 percent likelier to die of heart disease than those who watched for under two hours daily.

Mind you, it’s not that the quality of the programming is deadly (although you could make a case for that). In fact, a twelve-year study of 17,000 Canadians found the higher risk of death among those who spent more time sitting for whatever reason: be it work, school, driving, reading, balancing the books or video gaming. And neither is this phenomenon due to a lack of exercise; in the Canadian study, even fit and trim gym regulars were subject to the sitting-will-kill-you effect. The determining factor is simply a matter of prolonged time spent seated.

So why is this so dangerous? The same article continued on saying:

Health.com made the following recommendations:

  1. Get moving! For 5 minutes every hour, get up and move around. (me: BEST tool for this? The online eggtimer. You just type in the URL and the time you want (http://e.ggtimer.com/1hour30minutes) and off it goes. Then what’s even better, is when that timer goes off, you punch in: http://e.ggtimer.com/morning and it will give you a quick 6.5 minute total body workout to do. Throughout your workday, simply alternate between the two URLs!)
  2. You need more than your daily gym workout. Just because you workout once a day does not mean you are ‘covered’ in terms of exercise if you are still sitting for 8-12 hours a day. Take several breaks throughout the day for 10-15 minutes to stretch and walk.

There are some other things to try as well . Here are some alternatives I found while searching the ‘net for answers:

  • The best sitting alternative is perching—a half-standing position at barstool height that keeps weight on the legs and leaves the S-curve intact. Chair alternatives include the Swopper, a hybrid stool seat and the funky, high HAG Capisco chair. Standing desks and chaise longues are good options.
  • And before you jump in and claim that you’re spared because you sit on an exercise ball, they’re apparently worse than any other kind of chair for prolonged sitting.

One note – I get a pretty sore back from prolonged standing (like when I iron). I find that if I stand on my rebounder and gently bounce while standing, I’m good for a long time. With rebounding being so good for you, that’s another good alternative to the treadmill, though the bouncing does make it hard to read…

So, what is your experience? Any thoughts? Comments? Criticisms? Please post them below. If you enjoyed this post, I’d love for you to click the “like” button below and share it with your friends. Thanks so much!




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Who is Darlene Hull?
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* Any link with an asterisk (*) denotes an affiliate link or a source with some kind of payback for me.
The advice offered in this blog is based upon the author’s own experience. The author is not engaged in rendering professional advice or services to the readers. The ideas, procedures, and suggestions in this blog are not intended to replace a consultation with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision. The author shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity that incurs any loss, damage, or injury caused directly, or indirectly from any information or suggestion in this Program.
* Any link with an asterisk (*) denotes an affiliate link or a source with some kind of payback for me.
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