Nutrition and Fitness Tamar Raucher | one year ago

Sitting Yourself to Death? Better Get a Move On

The majority of Americans sit for more than half the time they’re awake, and a growing body of evidence suggests sitting for long periods of time can be as bad for your health as smoking.

Whether it’s watching TV, driving or working at a desk, when you don’t move for most of the day, you develop an increased risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and premature death – even if you exercise regularly. When you sit in one position for long periods of time, the electrical activity in your muscles greatly decreases and your body uses very little energy. And by little, we mean burning only 5-calories-per-hour little. Yikes. Not surprisingly, excessive sitting also negatively effects your heart rate, insulin effectiveness and cholesterol levels. Alarming numbers to think on (while standing of course): According to a Mayo Clinic study, excessive sitting may literally shorten a person’s life by several years. The study divided volunteers into two groups  – one group sat for three hours or less per day, while the other group sat for six hours or more per day. The study concluded:
  • Women who sit for six hours or more have an overall death rate that is 40 percent higher than women who sit for three hours per day or less
  • Men who sit for six hours or more have an overall death rate that is 20 percent higher than men who sit for three hours or less

Move Throughout the Day

The good news is it’s relatively easy to counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle – just stand up more often and move around, too. Reducing and breaking up the time spent in sedentary behaviors is extremely important, according to a review article published by Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute cardiologist Jorge Alegria, MD. By avoiding sitting, promoting motion and engaging in simple, repetitive activities, Dr. Alegria found that extra calories are burned, helping control weight and prevent further health problems. He and a handful of colleagues contributed to a research article about obesity management for the Mayo Clinic. The group focused on NEAT, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which includes common movements such as fidgeting, walking, standing and stretching. According to research, these NEAT activities can burn extra calories – up to 2,000 calories a day – and eliminate the risk of several diseases. Simple ways to burn extra calories throughout the day: 
  • Try a standing desk (but don't forget to walk around, too)
  • Each time you go to the bathroom, do 20 squats
  • Suggest a walking meeting; perhaps head outside if it's nice out
  • Take a break every hour to walk around or walk up and down some stairs
  • Stand up and stretch whenever you can
  • When watching the tube, roll out your yoga mat and do some push ups and sit ups
Remember, your nemesis isn’t sitting or standing; it’s how long you remain in one position.