We have become a nation of sitters! In fact, we sit more than we sleep, averaging 9.3 hours of sitting compared to 7.7 hours of sleep. All this sitting comes with a price,namely a host of health issues that researchers have linked to sitting too much and too long. Obesity and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including increased blood pressure,high blood sugar, increase in abdominal fat, and abnormal cholesterol readings have been linked to prolonged sitting. The more you sit, your risk for heart disease,type 2 diabetes, breast cancer,or colon cancer will climb up.
Extended sitting slows down the body’s metabolism, causing metabolic alterations that directly affect the body’s ability to function effectively and efficiently. One hour of sitting can cause the production of fat burning enzymes to drop by up to 90% and cause a drop in HDL levels in the body. HDL is the type of cholesterol that benefits the body so we want to hang on to it.
Unfortunately the time spent sitting is replacing time spent in daily activity. We are doing less walking, standing, gardening, housework,and other daily physical activities, all activities that need muscle activity to complete. The muscle activity that occurs with movement triggers the metabolic processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars in the body.Sitting stifles these processes, causing a slow down, thus over time health risks increase.
A recent Swedish study concluded that daily activity is as important as regular exercise for older adults,reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30% and increasing longevity for adults 60 and over. Lead researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak cautions that older adults also benefit from regular exercise. “We saw that those who exercised regularly and that also had a daily physically active life had the lowest risk of all” she stated.
The combination of sitting less, moving more, and exercising on a regular basis is critical for lowering health risks and even prolonging life. One way to get more movement throughout the day would be to stand rather than sit whenever possible. Make your phone mobile, stand and walk around while talking. Use the stairs whenever possible, and don’t use the hand rail. Take a break every hour,get up from your desk, stretch and walk for a few minutes,then go back to the task at hand. It all adds up over the course of the day to reduce health risks and improve how you body functions.
Check back in a few days for a follow-up post with more ways to add more activity into your day.