By nature, our bodies are designed to move. Just look at toddlers, you can’t get them to sit still. Yet as adults, most don’t maintain a consistently active lifestyle.
A body in motion will stay in motion, while a body at rest will remain at rest. – Newton’s First Law of Motion
If you’re like me and have an office job, you spend most of your weekdays sitting during your long commute, sitting through endless meetings and sitting at a desk all day. Anyone who manages to fit in a 30-60 minute workout five days a week is considered physically active. However, just because someone meets or even exceeds the recommended amount of physical activity each week doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly sedentary otherwise. People sit an average of 7.7 to 15 hours during their waking day, regardless if they exercised the recommended 150+ minutes a week. That’s a lot of sitting not matter how otherwise active anyone is! In fact, regular exercisers may make less of an effort to move above and beyond their daily workout. Have you ever heard someone say, “I already worked out today” or “I worked out enough for one day”, as an excuse to not get moving? I for one have said that many, many times. Unfortunately however, “active couch potatoes” face the same health risks as someone who is completely inactive.
Physically active people are still at high risk, while physically inactive people are at significant risk. Most people simply aren’t moving or even just standing enough to counteract all the harmful effects of sitting hours on end. It’s like smoking. Smoking is bad for you even if you get lots of exercise. So is sitting too much.
“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.” – Martha Grogan, Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic
Health Risks of Too Much Sitting.
Health experts recommend that people get 10,000 steps per day for good health, which is about five miles. Yet the average American only takes 5,117 steps a day, with men (5,340) out walking women (4,912). This is much less than the averages in Western Australia (9,695), Switzerland (9,650) and Japan (7,168). Regardless of age, sex, body mass index or whether someone gets plenty of exercise, the very act of sitting for long periods of time increases everyone’s risk of obesity, chronic disease, and even premature death. Sitting increases the risk of disability, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and mental health issues such as depression to the point where experts have labeled this modern-day health epidemic the “sitting disease.” The longer you sit, the greater your risks become. The statistics are profound.
“If you are reading this while sitting down, you might want to stand up for a moment.” – WebMD.com
Why is Sitting so Harmful?
When you sit for hours at a time, the electrical activity in your muscles shuts down, causing a whole slew of harmful effects. Your circulation slows when your muscles, especially certain leg muscles, are immobile for just two hours. Your ability to prevent blood clotting and inflammation to keep your cardiovascular system healthy becomes suppressed; an effect not impacted by exercise if the muscles were inactive most of the day. While exercise promotes the growth of healthy neurons in the brain, being sedentary changes the shape of these neurons, causing them to be more sensitive to stimuli. The neurons that are affected are part of the nervous system responsible for processes such as regulating blood pressure. Hypersensitivity, or overactivity of these neurons therefore may contribute to an increase in blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk in sedentary individuals. Additionally, when sitting, blood sugar raises, HDL cholesterol decreases, key fat burners turn off, and your body no longer effectively burns calories. A sitting body accumulates fat, gains weight, increases stiffness and tightness, becomes lethargic and increases its risk of virtually all illnesses. The good news is the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement kicks the processes that sitting stales, back into action.
Just Get Moving!
The impact of movement, even leisurely movement throughout the day can be profound. If you can stand up every 20 minutes, even if you do nothing else, you change how your body responds physiologically. If you can also walk around, you get even more benefits. You will lose weight, lessen your chance of stroke and heart disease, improve brain function, and just feel alive. If that isn’t enough, by reducing excessive sitting to less than three hours a day, you could increase your life expectancy by two years!
- Walk to work and to run errands.
- Park at the back of the parking lot.
- Talk on the phone standing up.
- Schedule walk and talks with coworkers and friends.
- Instead of emailing or calling, go talk to a coworker/friend.
- Schedule frequent breaks into your daily work schedule.
- Work at a standing or treadmill desk.
Wearing a pedometer such as a Fitbit, is a great way to keep track of how many steps you are getting each day and to set goals that keep you moving beyond your regular exercise routine. Whatever you do, “Stand Up, Sit Less, Move More”!
How do you keep moving throughout the day. Share you tips by commenting below.
This post is shared on: Fat Tuesday, Fresh Foods Wednesday, Healthy Tuesday, Homesteaders Hop, Homestead Barn Hop, Let’s Get Real, Old Fashioned Friday, Mostly Homemade Monday, Natural Family Friday, Natural Living Monday, Real Food Wednesday, Real Food Friday, Thank Goodness Its Monday, Waste Not Want Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday.
Lauren Brinkac, founder of DC Healthy Bites, received a dual BS in Biology and Biochemistry from Syracuse University and a MS in Bioinformatics from George Mason University. She is currently a Lead Bioinformatics Analyst conducting bacterial genomics research of infectious disease at The J. Craig Venter Institute. Lauren hopes to use her scientific background and the latest in scientific research to guide others in making informed dietary choices to optimize their own personalized health. Click here to read Lauren’s Story.