Caution: Sitting for Prolonged Periods of Time Can Be Deadly
Studies show that the average US adult spends 9 to 12 hours each day sitting, and a 60-min workout cannot counteract the effects of this level of inactivity.
Sitting is not inherently dangerous.
The danger is in the amount of time you spend sitting. Brief periods of sitting are natural, but long periods can seriously impact our health and shorten our lives.
A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine demonstrated that sitting for prolonged periods of time can be deadly. Even those who exercised heavily when they were not at the office experienced a significantly increased risk of death when seated for 8 hours a day.
During the study, the team evaluated 8,000 Americans over the age of 45 for a 4-year period.
Participants wore accelerometers to track their movements. The researchers found those who moved more were healthier overall. However, they also found a correlation between death rates of participants and how many hours they spent seated during the day. So, there was a relationship established between the time spent seated and the risk of early mortality from any cause.
The American Heart Association (AHA) encourages sitting less and moving more.
Experts believe that the AHA guidelines should be more precise, such as those by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for 2.5 hrs weekly, plus strengthening activities 2 or more times a week.
They say, “We need similar guidelines for sitting. We think a more specific guideline could read something like, ‘For every 30 consecutive mins of sitting, stand up and move or walk for 5 minutes at a brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting.’”
Although previous studies found daily sitting time to average between 9 and 12 hours per day, data analysis from this study found an average of 12.3 hours of sedentary behavior for an average 16-hour waking day.
As total sedentary time increased.
With that, so did early death by any cause, regardless of the participants’ age, sex, race, body mass index or exercise habits. The results indicated those who sat in stretches of less than 30 mins had a 55% lower risk of death than those who sat for more than 30 mins at a stretch.
Sitting for long periods of time takes a toll on our bodies.
Dr. James Levine, codirector of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Obesity Initiative, and author of the book “Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It,” has dedicated a good part of his career to investigating the health effects of sitting.
His investigations demonstrate when you sit for long periods of time a number of molecular cascades are initiated. And that 90 secs after standing, muscular and cellular systems processing blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol are activated, simply by carrying your our body weight.
These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuel into your cells, and when done regularly, may radically reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity. In other words, while our joints make movement easier, our body enjoys benefits even at the molecular level.
Although many recommend standing for 10 mins of every hour of sitting this is the minimum and far from the ideal. It seems far wiser to strive to sit as little as possible daily.
When you do sit
It is always important to sit with good posture. This will help reduce problems with lower back pain, wrist strain and other physical challenges associated with poor posture, and while using good sitting posture is important, it does not negate your need for more movement.
When sitting in a correct posture we:
- Sit with your back straight and your shoulders back, pulling your shoulder blades down. The buttocks should touch the back of the chair and the head should remain upright, all of which engage your core muscles. Distribute body weight evenly over both hips, with knees bent at right angles, feet flat to the floor. Do not cross legs.. Avoid twisting at the waist while sitting, but instead turn the whole body.
- Place the computer screen at a height allowing your head to remain level. This may mean getting an external keyboard to allow the keyboard at hand level and the screen at eye level.
- Avoid sitting for more than 20 mins. Get up, walk, stretch or walk briskly for a few mins. This not only helps to reduce the effects of sitting, but it increases your blood flow and improves our creativity.
- When standing from the sitting position, move to the front of the seat and then stand up by straightening the legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist as this places additional pressure on the lower back.
- While driving our knees should be at the same level or slightly higher than our hips. Move the seat as close to the steering wheel as necessary to support the curve of the back while keeping elbows bent and the feet easily reaching the pedals.
Note: In the seated position, our muscles burn less fat and our blood flows more sluggishly. Prolonged sitting has been linked to hypertension, and research data demonstrates women who sit for 10 hours a day may have a significantly greater risk of developing heart disease than those who sit 5 hours or less
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Sit up straight, Live lively
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