According to a study in the British Medical Journal, reducing the average time you spend sitting to less than three hours per day could increase your life expectancy by two years. The average American spends about 4.5 to 5 hours per day on a chair or sofa. Researchers analyzed 18 different studies and the results were that people who sat for the longest periods were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease compared to those who sat the least. As a result of this study, sitting has actually joined smoking and obesity as an important risk factor for chronic disease.
There have been other studies that have investigated the ramifications of a sedentary lifestyle and the findings of these studies are worth noting:
1. Men who were sedentary for more than 23 hours a week had a 64% greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who were only sedentary 11 hours a week. (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2010)
2. An Australian study found that sitting time is a predictor of weight gain among women – even after controlling for calories consumed and exercise.
3. People who use a computer for at least 11 hours a week or watch TV for more than 21 hours a week are more likely to be obese than those who use a computer or watch TV for more than 5 hours a week.
4. A study of more than 17,000 Canadians found that the mortality risk from all causes was 1.54 times higher among people who spent most of their day sitting compraed to those who sat infrequently.
Regular exercise might not be enough.
Even if you exercise on a regular basis the effects of sitting for the rest of your day might still have detrimental effects on your health and lifespan. Researchers have called this the “active couch potato effect.”
Trying to lose weight?
If you’re trying to lose weight, this study is important for you too. According to a New York Times article, after just an hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in your body declines by as much as 90 per cent! Extended sitting slows your body’s metabolism of glucose and decreases your HDL (the good one!). People who habitually sit for extended periods of time have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
NBC’s Today Show recently did a story on the negative effects of sitting with a researcher form the Mayo Clinic, Dr. James Levine. Dr. Levine is urging people to stand up because according to his research, sitting for too long is hazardous to your health – as hazardous as tobacco. Dr. Levine figured out its how much you move about during the day and not just if you go to the gym that makes the difference in people who are obese and who are not.
The key to sitting successfully: Stand up!
Seriously, it’s as simple as that. The remedy is to get up and do a few simple exercises – and you need to do this frequently. Most back, neck and muscle pains are the result of an imbalanced absorption of forces throughout your body created by working in unnatural positions for extended periods.
For example: carpal tunnel syndrome. A lot of carpal tunnel cases do not result solely from improper wrist position, but from forward rotation of the shoulder, neck and head. You may have heard me refer to this as Forward Head Posture. The forward rotation of the shoulder and neck is directly connected to the position of your lower back and pelvis. As the shoulder and neck change position, all of the muscles and nerves below the shoulder are adversely affected. The result is symptoms in the wrist that cannot be fixed at the wrist – another reason why many carpal tunnel surgeries fail.
So, a good rule of thumb is to get up out of your chair and change your position every 20 to 30 minutes. Go for a walk, do some squats, roll your shoulders back – just move!
Dr. Levine was instrumental in the invention and development of the Treadmill Desk – a workstation combining a treadmill and a desk so people can walk at a very low speed while working at their computer or desk at an ergonomically correct height.
Bottom line: our bodies are designed to move and require movement to be healthy. We can only deprive our body of what it requires for so long before it begins to rebel against us physically.