I know. I’ve experienced the back pain, stiff muscles, and headaches.
But it gets worse. In addition to fostering weight gain and too much padding on your backside, sitting can actually shorten your life.
Proof Sitting Kills
A study published in 2009 looked at sitting time and mortality in over 17,000 participants 18-90 years old. Researchers evaluated daily sitting time, determining whether participants sat almost none of the time, one fourth of the time, half of the time, three-fourths of the time, or almost all the time. They included time spent eating, riding in the car, sitting at work, watching television, playing computer games, and surfing the Internet. They also looked at leisure time physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption.
Results showed sitting time was associated with all causes of death. As people sat 50 percent or more each day, the risk of death from any cause increased 11 to 54 percent. Those results held true regardless of leisure time physical activity. So even if you’re going to the gym every day after work, if you’re sitting for most of the rest of the day, you’re still shortening your life.
More Studies Spell Out the Danger of Extended Sitting
In 2010, another study conducted by the American Cancer Society looked at sitting time and health results in over 53,000 men and nearly 70,000 women. Again, results showed that time spent sitting was associated with mortality.
More specifically, women who reported sitting more than six hours per day were 37 percent more likely to die during the study period than those who sat fewer than three hours a day—men were 18 percent more likely to die.
In this study, however, being physically active did help. Women and men who sat more and were less physically active were 94 percent and 48 percent more likely to die than those who reported sitting the least and being most active.
In November 2013, a meta-analysis of studies published between 1989 and 2013 showed that adults sitting 10 hours a day had a 34 percent higher risk of mortality, after taking physical activity into account.
Why Does Sitting Lead to Premature Death?
Scientists are still working on this one, but they theorize that all that sitting causes unhealthy changes in the body. It may increase triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood, throw off blood sugar levels, increase blood pressure, stimulate hunger, and a number of other things that can lead to weight gain, cardiovascular disease and other health problems.
Short Breaks Help
According to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have increased 83 percent since 1950. What can you do if your profession requires you to sit at the computer for hours at a time every day of the workweek?
So far, science is finding that if we just get up, even for five minutes, we can mitigate the damage all the sitting is doing.
Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, states that taking just a one-to-two-minute break from sitting every hour can help you lower your cancer risk. Even short spurts can minimize insulin resistance and long-term weight gain.
Physical education columnist Gretchen Reynolds advises office workers and other desk-bound folks to stand up every 20 minutes. Frequent standing breaks significantly decrease your chances of getting diabetes, she says.
Research from Australia found that mini-breaks, even if only one-minute long, can actually make a difference. Scientists studied participants with an average age of 53.4 years, and found that taking small breaks helped improve things like waist circumference, triglyceride levels, and glucose levels.
Time to Get Up
It sounds easy, getting up more often, but it’s also easy to forget. The tasks of the day can easily encourage you to neglect your body.
Try the following tips to help you move more, starting today!
- Set an alarm to remind you to get up at least once an hour. Once every half hour is even better.
- Use a small cup for water so you have to get up often to fill it.
- Stand up every time you take a phone call.
- Take a walk during part of your lunch break.
- Print pages out and stand up to read/edit rather than doing it sitting at the computer.
- Enlist a buddy in your daily efforts to get up and move.
- Engage in office games like Nerf football or basketball, and call an office quick-break to play every hour on the hour.
- Brainstorm more ideas, but whatever you do, don’t go back to endless sitting!
How do you work more movement into your daily routine? Please share your ideas.