By Tina Paymaster, PHASE IV Functional Nutrition & Health Specialist
Is sitting really that bad for you?
A 2015 study in the Annals of American Medicine found that over 50% of the average person’s waking hours are spent sitting, watching TV, commuting, working on the computer or some other sedentary activity. Other studies have said as much as 70% of the average adult’s waking hours are spend sitting. This amounts to 13 hours of a 16 hour waking day.
The Annals study examined 13 previous studies of sitting time and physical activity levels and found that those people who sat for more than 8 hours a days with no physical activity had a just as high of a risk of dying as people who were obese or smoked.
Another study conducted by Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS), observed 7,985 black and white adults, 45 years or older over the course of 4 years and found that those who sat for 13 hours a day had a 200% greater risk of death compared to those who sat for 11 hours a day. In addition, those participants who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had a 55% lower risk of death compared to others who sat for more than 30 minutes at a time.
Research has continuously linked sitting for long periods of time with many serious health conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, increased waist circumference, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, dementia and death.
There are some studies that show at least 60 minutes of moderately intense exercise a day can counteract the negative effects of sitting but there are other studies that say daily exercise can’t diminish the negative effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time.
However, some research reveals that people who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time have the lowest risk of early death.
Why do we sit so much?
Researchers in a 2010 MayoClinic article shared, “From an evolutionary perspective, humans were designed to move—to locomote and engage in all manner of manual labor throughout the day. This was essential to our survival as a species. The recent shift from a physically demanding life to one with few physical challenges has been sudden, occurring during a tiny fraction of human existence.”
Humans are not designed to sit for as long as we do, yet the demands of our every day lives make it really difficult – working long hours at a desk, driving the kid’s to soccer practice, meeting friends for a movie or dinner, flying across the country for another wedding or business meeting…
Even though we know that sitting and low physical activity have negative implications on our health, there is limited research into exactly how they affect the body.
What does sitting do to the body?
Sitting utilizes fewer skeletal muscle contractions which may result in less metabolization of triglycerides, blood glucose and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Remember, physical activity requires energy and the body will burn up fat and carbs in the form of glucose and triglycerides to support your activities.
This negative impact on sugar and fat metabolism has been linked to a myriad of serious health conditions as noted above. That’s why at PHASE IV, we specialize in programs that are designed to boost your metabolism and fat burning potential. To learn more contact us here.
However, taking regular breaks from sitting or lying down during waking hours has been shown to have a positive effect on waist circumference, body mass index, triglyceride levels and 2-hour glucose levels.
What can you do?
The current guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. That’s about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. This is in addition to two or more strength training workouts each week.
Based on the findings of these studies, researchers also say to make sure to take a break every 30 minutes you’re sitting to get up and walk briskly or stretch.
What this comes down to is that while regular daily aerobic and strength training are important parts of getting and staying healthy, being active throughout the day is even more important.
Here are some other ways you can get more active throughout the day:
- Use a standing desk
- Take stretching breaks every half hour
- Workout or walk during your lunch break
- Have walking meetings instead of meetings in a conference room
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator
- Park farther away from your destination
- Stand up, stretch or do some light physical activity during commercials while watching TV
- Go for a hike with friends instead of do the bar or movies