Often called “the new smoking,” sitting has been linked to a number of health problems that increase the risk of early death. If you spend hours a day on the couch or working in front of a computer, learn the troubling health effects of sitting and how you can reduce your risk.
Negative Effects of Sedentary Lifestyles
A growing body of evidence links extended periods of sitting to obesity and metabolic syndrome, a combination of health issues, which includes abnormal cholesterol levels, excess body fat around the waist, high blood sugar and increased blood pressure.
Most people understand that movement makes us healthier; however, few appreciate just how dangerous sedentary living is. According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests that spending more than four hours per day in front of the television or other screen-based entertainment results in a 125-percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a nearly 50-percent increased risk of death from any cause.
Unfortunately, recreational time isn’t the only concern. Any extended periods of sitting – even behind a desk at work – can increase your risk of early death. What’s more, studies indicate you cannot offset this harm by spending a few hours engaged in vigorous activity at home or the gym.
Reducing Your Risk
If sitting is bad, the solution seems obvious: Less sitting is better. Unfortunately, this isn’t always so easy for people who do most of their sitting at work. In an attempt to minimize the amount of time spent sitting, many people have turned to standing desks. Currently, however, there is little research to prove that standing still on one spot is any better than sitting.
Ultimately, increased movement seems to be the best way to limit the health risks associated with sedentary patterns. To infuse a little more movement into your daily routine, try the following:
- Stand and pace while eating lunch or talking on the phone.
- Take a walk with your colleagues as an alternative to gathering in conference rooms for meetings.
- Position your work surface above a treadmill if possible.
- Take a break and do bends, stretching and other movements every 30 minutes.
Why it’s So Important
Even brief periods of movement are important, because the muscle activity seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of sugars and fats within the body. When we remain stagnant for long periods of time, these processes cease. However you choose to do it, try to ramp up your body’s internal metabolic processes by incorporating more movement into your everyday routine.