Sitting is bad for you. Wait, too dramatic? How about…Sitting is killing you.
Yep, this isn’t “new” news that can be discredited as the latest fad or health craze either. Nope, sitting is bad for you. It is well documented and serious.
It seems like anything we do that is NOT like our paleolithic ancestors is going to kill us. Cavemen were functionally fit, had more efficient diets,
buy the best car insurance and they rarely sat down…Is there some sort of trend here??
Today, let’s talk about why sitting is bad for you and what you can do about it.
Why is sitting bad?
I’ll answer that question with a question. Why is lazy bad? Ok, seriously, sitting is bad for a number of reasons and is currently linked to increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more…
So what, exactly, happens?
- When you sit down, your muscles check out, and all electrical activity will cease, thus your energy expenditure is minimal. Do this for a long time and bad things start to happen…calorie burn drops, insulin effectiveness drops, good cholesterol levels drop, and your heart rate lessens. A little more technical here; your body will also cease to produce lipoprotein lipase which is used when your muscles are flexed or in activity. So when your body is not using lipoprotein lipase your body will process fat and sugar much less efficiently and your metabolism will slow.
- Not to mention it is bad for your spine…and a majority of us have terrible posture. When you sit your lose the lumbar “S” curve that is naturally occurring, and supportive when you are standing. Your “S” turns to a “C” when you are on your butt which will weaken your abdominals, obliques and lower back.
But I have great posture!
- No, sorry, even if you have great posture the amount of weight that is placed on your pelvis and lower back create enough pressure to turn into problems later. Mind you, we are talking about your spine here. Perfect posture also does not lessen the health issues discussed above.
But I workout!
- Sorry again. Apparently, even if you you workout regularly it will not undo the effects of sitting for long periods of time. Studies show, that whether you workout or not, prolonged sitting in your everyday routine has been shown to influence triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, resting blood pressure, and leptin…which are all related to cardiovascular disease, obesity and many other chronic disease.
So let’s do the math.
A lot of sitting + No physical activity = Really bad
A lof of sitting + Physical activity = Good, but still bad
Limit sitting + Physical activity = Awesome Better Human
Pretty simple math if you ask me.
Sitting is bad for you…the facts
I, of course, am not a scientist or doctor…But I am the guy who reads a lot of studies, research and other boring uninteresting-t0-most stuff that I will share here. Basically, you can pull all the research together and you’ll get the bullets below. All sources are quoted at the end of this article if you want to read up on any of it, more in depth.
Those who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day had a 20% higher death rate than those who sat for three hours or less.
Men who sat for 23 or more hours a week had a 64% greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours per week or less.
When you sit, the muscles are relaxed, and enzyme activity drops by 90% to 95%, leaving fat to camp out in the bloodstream.
Within a couple hours of sitting, healthy cholesterol plummets by 20%.
In the study, men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised.
Women who reported more than six hours per day of sitting (outside of work) were 37 percent more likely to die during the time period studied than those who sat fewer than three hours a day.
Women and men who both sat more and were less physically active were 94 percent and 48 percent more likely to die during the study period, respectively, compared with those who reported sitting the least and being most active.
Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity. Public health programs should focus on reducing sitting time in addition to increasing physical activity levels.
What to do about it!
Ok, now that I have scared the crap out of you, and you are having thoughts like, “There is no way I can stand all day.” or “Oh crap, I’m dead.”, let’s talk about what you can do about this whole sitting fiasco.
Stand Up – I didn’t think I would have to say it, but just in case, the opposit of sitting is standing…so do more of that :).
Set a Timer – When you are at work, or at home, set a timer that goes off every 30 – 60 minutes and get up and walk around for a few minutes every time it goes off.
Get Comfy Shoes – If you plan to stand more, you will want some very comfortable shoes, which I will recommend standing in, but not running in (I’ll save that for a different post).
Try a standing desk – Turns out, the standing desk is nothing new. It’s a classic and certainly worth a try if you have the opportunity, or means.
Should I stand all Day?
The key is more activity and less inactivity, not necessarily standing for every waking moment. Trust me, I have had my fair share of hourly-wage jobs, in my teenage years, that had me standing in one spot for several hours at a time…It isn’t fun or comfortable.
But standing is good for you. Simply standing will burn 40% more calories than sitting. Adding 2.5 hours of standing to your daily routine will burn, on average, 350 calories or 20 lb per working year.
Think about it! Strike a balance and see what you can do.
Lastly, don’t be “that guy”
I want to end on this note, because I know how some of you feel right now, and quite smply is it most likely…overwhelmed, but don’t be “that guy”.
“That guy” is thinking right now, deodorant gives me cancer, sugar will kill me, sitting is bad for me, I need a ridiculous amount of fruits and vegetables each day…IT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE…
So, “that guy”, feeling overwhelmed will do nothing at all.
Don’t be that guy. Do what you can, be better than yesterday. You may not be able to do it all, but what you can do is better than nothing.
Now, for sake of becoming a better human, please stand up!!
A CrapTon of Sources:
Become a Stand-Up Guy: The History, Benefits, and Use of Standing Desks, Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?, Your Office Chair Is Killing You, Sitting At Work: Why It’s Dangerous And What You Can Do, Are you sitting down? It’s slowly killing you, Get up, stand up…, Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer., Time spent sitting may raise chronic disease risk, Mayo Clinic, Photo.