You may have seen news stories recently proclaiming that “Sitting is KILLING You!” or “Sitting is DANGEROUS”. I’ve seen articles about sitting and poor health in the papers, on TV, in blogs and I’ve heard about it on the radio. It seems to be everywhere. It occurred to me that I better find out more about this if I’m going to be able to lead my clients to live healthier, fitter, more productive lives.
Like many active people, I assumed that by exercising frequently every week (5+ hours), I was erasing the effects of an increasingly sedentary modern lifestyle. Everything is automated these days. You can change channels, open your garage door and answer the phone without ever getting out of your chair. Sort of like the people in the movie Wall-E!
If you saw Wall-E…you know the outcome of a life spent in a high-tech recliner isn’t good.
I examined the findings of a study conducted by the Sax Institute, where they are doing the largest ongoing study of healthy aging in the Western Hemisphere (the Institute is in Australia). The study was conducted specifically to determine the relationship between sitting and morbidity rates. They want to find out if people who stand more (vs. those who sit more) are less likely to die from certain diseases.
After reading over the results, I have to say that the findings are quite shocking! People who sat 11+ hours per day (at work and then at leisure) are 40% more likely to die in the next 3 years than people who sit less than 4 hours per day. The part that was most shocking to me was that it didn’t matter if the “sitter” was healthy or sick or if they exercised regularly. Sit longer…. die sooner. In other words, you can’t “exercise away” a sedentary lifestyle.
I also read the results of a study from the Medical Billing and Coding group who gathered evidence from many sources. One of their findings was that people who sit more than 6 hours per day are 10% more likely to die within 15 years than people who sit less than 3 hours per day.
The reasons cited in the Medical Billing and Coding report suggest that when you sit, the electrical activity to your legs is cut off immediately and the enzymes that your body produces to break down fat drop by 90%. Within 2 hours, good cholesterol in your body drops by 20% and within 24 hours, your risk for diabetes increases. And people with sitting jobs are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease according to the report.
Wow. Heavy stuff.
What we can take from these reports and studies is that the human body is a “movement machine.” It is designed to work best and last the longest when it is in motion…upright! One of the positives from the Sax study was that the one group with the lowest death rates was the group that exercised the most AND sat the least.
What you can do right now.
- Wherever you are, if you can do an errand by walking 15 minutes or less, do not drive. Walk.
- If you have a desk job, get up every 15 minutes for a few minutes to stretch. Anytime you take a phone call, instead of staring at your computer screen, stand while you talk.
- Set up your work station to include a “standing desk”.
- At home, turn the TV off and go outside when the weather is nice. Walk around the block, talk to your neighbors, go for a bike ride. If you have young kids playing sports, resist the urge to sit for the whole game. Stand while you watch.
- At the gym, switch from the exercise bike to multi-station circuit training or to the treadmill that keeps you on your feet.
Whatever you’re doing, get out of your chair. It might just save your life!
Guest author, Ernie Schramayr, is a 20 year fitness veteran. He is a Certified Personal Trainer and a former professional football player with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Rough Riders. When he retired from football in 1993, Ernie began his full time career in fitness. Since then, he has helped hundreds of people from all walks of life achieve their health, fitness and performance goals.