Too Much Sitting May Increase
Your Risk of Chronic Disease …
and Premature Death
© 2021 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
These days you likely hear a lot about sedentary lifestyles, and how this inactivity can lead to obesity and all of its related problems. But what you may not realize is that the word “sedentary” comes from the Latin word “sedere,” which means “to sit.”
Sitting too much can interfere with your metabolism and weight, and may contribute to heart disease.
Being sedentary could actually be described as any behavior during which energy expenditure is low, which always applies to prolonged periods of sitting at home, at work, during your commute and even during your leisure time.
Now, as with all sedentary activities, the evidence is increasing that shows sitting is, in fact, a risk factor for not only chronic disease but also premature death … a worrying finding considering how long the average American spends sitting each day.
Just how long is it?
Well, American adults spend an average of more than eight hours each day in front of screens, including televisions, computer monitors, cell phones and other technology, according to a Video Consumer Mapping study.
Americans also sit at their desks and in their cars, which could easily push the average number of t sitting hours even higher.
For years health officials have urged us to make sure we get in our 30-60 minutes of exercise daily, but on any given day adults have about 15.5 "non-exercise" waking hours. For many adults, a great portion of this time is spent sitting.
Now, researchers say, it’s important not only to exercise, but also to make sure you are breaking up prolonged periods of sitting time with other activities. In other words, even if you exercise every day, it may not be enough to overcome the negative effects of 8+ hours spent sitting.
What’s necessary to be optimally healthy is a combination of both exercise and reducing your sitting time each and every day.
What’s So Bad About Sitting?
Sitting is perfectly healthy and natural, assuming it is not done in excess. Your body is meant to move, flex and stretch, so anytime it becomes sedentary for extended periods negative changes begin to happen.
Numerous studies show rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity are doubled and even tripled in people who sit a lot. Part of the problem is sitting stops the circulation of lipase, an enzyme that absorbs fats. So instead of being burned by your muscles, fat recirculates in your bloodstream when your are sitting and may end up stored as body fat, clogging arteries or contributing to disease.
In fact, simply standing up as opposed to sitting engages muscles and helps your body process fat and cholesterol in a positive way, regardless of the amount of exercise you do.
- A recent study found sitting time was a predictor of weight gain in Australian women, even after adjustments were made for diet and exercise.
- Observational studies have showed that not only is total sedentary time important for blood glucose control but also that a larger number of breaks in sedentary time are associated with more favorable metabolic profiles, according to an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Sitting Increase Your Risk of Premature Death
One of the most revealing new studies, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, linked sitting time with a greater risk of death in more than 17,000 Canadians.
Don’t Sit … Stretch!
Stretching is an excellent alternative to sitting.
Even after accounting for physical activity levels outside of work, body mass index, age, sex, drinking alcohol and smoking, the mortality risk was 1.54 times higher among those who spent almost all of the day sitting compared with those who spent almost no time sitting, the researchers found.
Those who were considered active (at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week) had a lower risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up as well.
Surprisingly, however, only 5 percent of participants compensated for the time they spent sitting at work through exercise. And even among those who did, the risk of premature death increased depending on how much sedentary time they had in their day.
"I don't think it's a very rosy future," Claude Bouchard, the study’s lead author and executive director at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. told CBC News. "If we combine that [time spent sitting at work] with the growing prevalence of obesity, it's going to mean that just about every developed society is going to be faced with a health care cost bill that has the potential to bankrupt the finances of all of these developed countries."
"The findings of the study also support that physicians should counsel patients to not only increase their level of physical activity and maintain a normal body weight but to reduce the amount of time they spend being sedentary in general and sitting in particular,” Bouchard continued.
Want to Sit Less?
There’s good news. You’ve already accomplished the first step to sitting less by realizing that you probably sit too much. Next, take the opportunity to stand as often as you can rather than sit. Stand while watching your kids play at the park, stand while you talk on the phone or watch TV, and definitely take time to move around while you’re at work. If fatigue is a problem, use smart supplements to increase your energy.
Your body can only tolerate being in one position for about 20 minutes before it starts to feel uncomfortable, according to the Mayo Clinic. About every 15 minutes, stand, walk around or change your position for at least 30 seconds.
The bottom line is this: exercise is a necessary tool to stay healthy -- but it is not enough. You’ve got to spend less time sitting as well. So just as you set goals to fit in your exercise routine everyday, make a commitment to sit less as well. The more you get into the habit of standing, walking, stretching or simply moving instead of sitting, the better you’ll feel and the easier it will be.
And if you need a bit of motivation just remember this: the average person can burn 60 extra calories each hour just by standing instead of sitting!
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
British Journal of Sports Medicine