October 22, 2014
We sit at home in front of the TV and the computer. We sit in our cars to run errands. We sit at the office for eight or more hours daily.
Then we sleep.
The sedentary lifestyle is a killer.
It’s not just weight gain that’s a concern. Couch potato habits also lead to diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
For instance, a recent study outlined in the American Heart Association’s “Rapid Access Journal Report” found that:
- Men with low levels of physical activity were 52 percent more likely to develop heart failure than those with high physical activity levels, even after adjusting for differences in sedentary time.
- Outside of work, men who sit five or more hours a day were 34 percent more likely to develop heart failure than men who spent no more than two hours a day sitting, regardless of how much they exercised.
- Heart failure risk more than doubled in men who sat for at least five hours a day and got little exercise, compared to men who were very physically active and sat for two hours or less a day.
Women don’t fare much better. According to a study about women, “Relationship of Sedentary Behavior and Physical Activity to Incident Cardiovascular Disease: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative,” physically inactive women who spent 10 hours or more sitting each day were at 63% greater risk for events related to cardiovascular disease compared with highly active women who spent 5 hours or fewer each day sitting.
Women who met physical activity guidelines but sat for long periods each day were still at increased cardiovascular disease risk.
Too much sitting other effects—sore shoulders, mushy abs, and a foggy brain—that are well illustrated in this infographic, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/health/sitting/Sitting.pdf.
You don’t need to train for a marathon to combat the effects of too much sitting. For instance, guidelines for women who want to improve their health require:
Either 2.5 hours moderate-intensity (walking, ballroom dancing and leisurely
biking, for example) aerobic physical activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity (jogging, uphill biking, and singles tennis, for example) aerobic physical activity or a combination of the two, along with muscle-strengthening activities two or more days each week.
When you do have to sit at work, there are ways to make those hours safer and more comfortable. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers up some strategies for reducing neck and back pain while sitting and ways to position chairs and keyboards. See:
Every little bit of exercise helps, so instead of sitting at your desk at work the American Heart Association suggests trying to:
- Walk during business calls.
- Stand while talking on the telephone.
- Walk down the hall to talk with colleagues instead of calling or e-mailing.
- Stay at hotels with fitness centers or pool and use the facilities while on business trips.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way.
- Walk while waiting for the plane at the airport.
Even standing more during your day is beneficial. Learn about the benefits of standing at http://www.juststand.org/.
For more on ways to improve your health, incorporate bits of activity into your day, see http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/StartWalking/Get-Moving-Easy-Tips-to-Get-Active_UCM_307978_Article.jsp