Don’t Just Sit There..If you want to be healthy

Have you ever considered how many hours per day that you sit?   Do not forget to count the time spent sitting while eating breakfast, the car ride to work, perhaps an 8 hour day at the office, the car ride home, sitting at the dinner table, and then reclining in front of the television for hours at night.  Add it all up and some will find that this number is upwards of 15 hours per day! Several published studies have confirmed that many spend nearly two-thirds of their day in a sedentary position.

What is the significance of this?   Sitting is strongly associated with cardiac disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and early causes of death. In fact one study that included over 595,000 adults showed that there is a 34% greater risk of mortality for adults that sit 10 hours per day.   Even scarier is the fact that we are learning that those who exercise an hour per day are not immune to these risks.  Sitting increases your risks of disease and death even among those who are physically active.

When you are sitting especially for prolonged periods, your body undergoes certain physiological changes in which your metabolism slows considerably. As this occurs, your circulation slows raising your risk for a blood clot. Blood sugar levels and triglyceride levels start to rise.  Additionally, lipid phosphate phosphatase-1 becomes suppressed when you sit. This gene is responsible for the prevention of cardiovascular inflammation and lessens the risk of blood clotting.

As for the effect on the musculoskeletal system and spine, we know that sitting causes muscles to become tight or in some cases overstretched. Sitting puts nearly twice the stress on the spine that standing does.  Changes in your natural spinal curve occur causing the potential for muscle imbalances and abnormal strain on ligaments that support the spine.  The lack of movement also prevents disks from getting nutrients.  This cascade leads to back pain.

Many of us do not have the option of completely changing how we work during the day. Short breaks of standing, walking, and engaging in light activity can make a huge difference with your health.  Outside of the office, there are lifestyle changes that most of us do have the opportunity to make. Back away from the TV! There is an endless array of activities that we you do that do not involve sitting on the couch or easy chair.

The bottom line is that no matter how old you are, how healthy of a diet you consume, and no matter how much you exercise, sitting is not healthy and has the potential to cause many health problems.  The absolute threshold for how much sitting is too much has yet to be determined.   Our bodies were not designed to sit for long periods of time.  Time to get moving…

Citations

  • Druzhinin VN, Shardakova ÉF, Cherniĭ AN. [Influence of occupational factors on the bone and joint functional state in the upper extremities and cervical spine in female workers of clothing manufacture]. Med Tr Prom Ekol. 2014;(7):36-9. PubMed PMID: 25282801