There is one more thing to add to the list of things that can kill you: sitting. As you’re reading this, you’re probably sitting. Ironic, isn’t it? But you may be surprised to learn that research has shown that a sedentary lifestyle, or sitting too long every day consistently, can not only increase blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight, but it can put you at greater risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even an early death.
How long is too long?
Over half of the average person’s day is spent sitting. If you sit all day for your job, sit while driving or riding the bus to and from work, and then sit watching TV for the rest of the night, you are doing way more harm than you may realize.
A recent study has revealed that regularly sitting for over 12.5 hours a day, in durations of over 30 minutes, can have such harmful effects on the body that it can even shorten your life. With the typical office worker spending up to 15 hours a day sitting, that’s more than a little scary.
Isn’t it natural to sit?
Sitting is definitely a natural posture, and something we need to do to rest – just not as often. Think of it like eating – necessary, yet harmful if you do it too much.
Sitting too much can also cause poor circulation, inflammation and contribute to osteoporosis. We often don’t have the best posture when we sit either, tending to slouch, which puts extra stress on our back and neck, leading to aches and pains.
Does exercise help?
Some studies have shown that exercise can offset the negative effects of sitting, while others are inconclusive. However, most experts agree that we would need to exercise for at least an hour a day to counter sitting’s destructive effects. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) recommends adults exercise for 20-30 minutes a day. 2.5 hours a week is much more doable for most of us than 7, and if we combine the recommended amount of exercise with sitting less during the day overall, we’ll be well on our way. However, if we sit for the rest of the day, we’ll undo the benefits of all that exercise.
But I have to sit for my job – what do I do?
What if you have a desk job or have a career in which you have to drive for long periods of time, like a bus driver, taxi driver or transport truck driver?
Standing isn’t necessarily the answer. People who are on their feet all day for their jobs – like construction workers and nurses – have their own discomforts. However, standing up rather than sitting when you have the chance will help offset the damaging effects of all that sitting. Here are some other things you can do at home or work:
- Stand up and stretch your legs or take a quick walk every 30 minutes – even if it’s just for a minute or two
- Use a sit-stand desk at work
- Use an ergonomic chair
- Have a walking meeting – it boosts creativity!
- Always take the stairs
- Stand or walk while talking on the phone
- Get up during every commercial break, or watch TV while using a treadmill or elliptical
- Make sure to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day
Whatever you do, keep moving as much as possible throughout the day.
Take a stand
Obviously, we still need to sit down, and that’s fine. But since limiting sedentary time is just as important to overall health as eating healthy and exercising, we should be more conscious about breaking up how long we sit, and our total sitting time each day.
If you find yourself in discomfort or think you could benefit from a personalized exercise plan, talk to a physiotherapist.