According to a poll of nearly 6,300 people by the Institute for Medicine and Public Health, it’s likely that you spend a stunning 56 hours a week planted like a geranium – staring at your computer screen, working the steering wheel or collapsed in a heap in front of your high-def TV (Women’s Health magazine).
Who would have thought something as simple as a chair could pose such a risk not only to your weight loss efforts but your overall health. While you think you may have an energetic, active lifestyle odds are you are spending more time planted on your derriere than you think. For most of us, sitting is how we spend the majority of our day. And it’s killing us – literally. Killing us by way of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
“Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to do one thing: move,” states James Levine, M.D., Ph.D. of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot. “As human beings, we evolved to stand upright. For thousands of generations, our environment demanded nearly constant physical activity.” Yet with the rapid advancement of technology in the form of the TV with endless cable channel possibilities, the Internet, sedentary desk-bound jobs, and longer work weeks, we now lead butt-bound tech-driven lives.
“Electronic living has all but sapped every flicker of activity from our daily lives,” Levine says. We could list out all of the tasks we can now do from the convenience of a chair but the real question is what can we NOT do from the convenience of our chair? From paying bills to catching up with old friends to even ordering groceries, all of these can be easily and conveniently done from the comfort of your couch.
And while all this convenience makes our hectic days easier to manage, when you sit for an extended period of time your body starts to shut down at the metabolic level, states Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri.
Our muscles, especially the big ones, are meant for movement. When these muscles such as those in your legs become immobile for extended periods of time your circulation slows and you burn fewer calories. Key flab-burning enzymes responsible for breaking down triglycerides (a type of fat) simply start switching off. Sit for a full day and those fat burners plummet by 50 percent, Levine says.
Oh, and that’s not all that happens. The less you move, the less blood sugar your body uses. Research shows that for every 2 hours spent on your backside per day, your chance of contracting diabetes goes up by 7 percent (Women’s Health magazine). And your risk of heart disease also increases as well as your chances for depression. It also wrecks havoc on your posture and spine health, says Douglas Lentz, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the director of fitness and wellness for Summit Health in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. “When you sit all day, your hip flexors and hamstrings shorten and tighten, while the muscles that support your spine become weak and stiff,” Lentz says.
Let’s look at some interesting facts presented in Mashable’s article Just How Dangerous Is Sitting All Day?
- Sitting 6+ hours a day makes you up to 40% likelier to die within 15 years before someone who sits less than 3 hours a day. Even if you exercise.
- Obese people sit for 2.5 more hours per day than thin people.
- Between 1980 and 2000 – exercise rates stayed the same but sitting time increased by 8% and obesity rates doubled.
- Sitting expends almost no energy.
- People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs.
- As soon as you sit enzymes that help break down fat drop 90% and calorie burning drops to 1 per minute.
- Those who sit 3 or more hours a day watching TV are 64% more likely to die from heart disease.
- Each extra hour of watching TV = 11% higher death risk.
Your Chair Is Your Enemy.
And even if you exercise, you’re not immune. We’ve become so sedentary that even 30 minutes of exercise isn’t enough to combat the lengthy periods of sitting that we do all day. If you spend most of the day sitting – whether it be in your car, your office chair or your sofa at home, you are putting yourself at risk for increased obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. To put it simply, sitting is bad for your overall health. In fact, it has gotten so bad that researchers and scientists have deemed it the “sitting disease.”
The human body simply isn’t built to sit for long periods of time. A hundred years ago, when we were all out toiling in the fields and factories, obesity was basically non-existent. But since we can’t exactly run free in the fields till the end of our days, we have to help our bodies in other ways. We have to stand up for our right to stand up. ( Just How Dangerous Is Sitting All Day?)
Did You Know That You Burn More Calories Chewing Gum Than You Do Sitting Still in a Chair?
But you have a choice. You don’t have to succumb to the health consequences of the “sitting disease.” You can take action to counteractive all those years of sitting. If weight gain and these other adverse health effects are a consequence of a series of small decisions, then let’s start making small decisions every day to get your move on!
Easy Ways to Get Your Move On.
- Take more breaks when at the office. Get up and walk around for a couple of minutes every 30 minutes.
- Take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Park further from your office or the store when out shopping.
- Replace your sit-down desk with a stand-up desk.
- Pedal on an exercise bike or walk on a treadmill while watching television at home.
- Get rid of your office chair and replace it with a stability ball.
- Read emails or take phone calls standing up.
- Walk over to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing them.
- Play Wii or Kinect instead of a seated video game.
Swapping just a few of your normal daily routines can make a big impact on your overall health and help stave off some of the weight gain attributed to being butt-bound. Whatever you decide to do, beware the chair. It is becoming our worst weight loss and health enemy.
For more information on the “sitting disease” check out these related articles:
Stand Up While You Read This | NY Times | Olivia Johnson
Why Your Desk Job is Slowly Killing You | MSNBC / Men’s Health | Maria Masters
Your Body’s Biggest Enemy | Women’s Health | Selene Yeager
Just How Dangerous is Sitting | Mashable | Jolie O’Dell