Are you sitting down? Are you comfortable? That’s too bad, because it’s probably killing you.
According to Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
As humans, we are not sedentary creatures. We used to tend crops, hunt for food, and spend most of our lives on our feet. But, with the advent of TV, computers, desk jobs, cell phones, and other hand-held devices, we are sitting more now than at any other time in history. Typically, we sit for more than 10 hours a day, sleep for less than 8, and move for just 3. And it’s killing us.
You may want to stand up now.
Why is sitting so bad? As soon as you start sitting, electrical activity in your muscles drops significantly, greatly reducing your caloric burn rate. Spending more than 6 hours a day sitting increases blood pressure, and places you at greater risk for diabetes, obesity, depression, and some types of cancer. Headaches, shoulder pain, neck pain, back problems, and poor posture are all inevitable. Even more shocking, sitting more than 6 hours a day increases your risk of death by a whopping 40%.
Below are some changes you can make to counteract the effects of sitting.
- Get out of your chair. While at work, take every opportunity possible to walk around the office. Stretching, marching in place, and jumping jacks are all great ways to get moving. Rather than phoning or emailing a colleague at work, walk to speak with them. Walk during phone calls. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. When you sit, try sitting at a 135-degree angle instead of hunching forward, which puts strain on muscles and posture.
- Get off the couch. It’s very easy to spend 3 or more hours watching TV, Netflix, etc. But, spending all that time on the couch contributes to an increased risk of heart disease and weight gain. Take time to walk during commercial breaks or at least once every 30-minutes to an hour.
- Shoot for every 30 minutes, or at least once an hour. If you have an Apple Watch, FitBit, or other wearable technology, set a reminder. Walk or ride your bike to or from work if possible. If you take public transportation, get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
- Although working out doesn’t completely erase the negative effects of sitting, it does help. Schedule at least 30-minutes to an hour of exercise every day. People who exercise regularly generally face a lower risk of the above health conditions than those who don’t work out. Just don’t use the excuse of exercising to sit 12 hours a day.