Is Sitting as Deadly as We Think?
Sitting seems like a harmless act – after all, we spend much of our time every day sitting down. You sit at your desk, on your couch, at tables, and just about everywhere else.
However, in recent years, sitting has become an increasingly worrisome danger to our health. Medical experts and scientific researchers discovered that sitting negatively affects a person’s health, ultimately causing chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. And, if you sit too often, it could even shorten your lifespan, according to a 2017 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine. Sitting has quickly become something to avoid rather than enjoy.
But research could be changing the story once again. There could be a way to sit down as often as we’re used to without reaping the many negative effects of a sedentary life. Sitting might not be as unhealthy as we’ve come to think.
New Research is Changing the Facts
Just this year, a new study on sitting was published in BMC Medicine. Researcher Carlos Celis-Morales from the University of Glasgow, along with a team of fellow researchers, studied the effects of sitting on approximately 400,000 middle-aged people in the U.K. in hopes of discovering just how dangerous sitting can be.
The study’s participants kept detailed records of how much time they spent sitting each day and how much time they spent getting physically active. People noted when they sat down at a desk or in front of a TV, and they stuck with their usual fitness routines.
At the end of the research study, the results showed that sitting may be perfectly healthy – as long as you make sure you’re getting up and active throughout the day.
The BMC Medicine study results indicated that those people who were the least physically active were also the most likely to die from sitting. People who didn’t exercise or move often had a 31 percent higher risk of death, a 21 percent higher risk of heart disease, and a 14 percent higher risk of developing cancer.
However, those who were physically active could sit for the exact same length of time each day and their health risks were significantly lower. And you may not, according to lead researcher Carlos Celis-Morales, have to be the fittest or strongest person in order to reduce the dangerous effects of sitting. You simply need to get up, move, and be active.
Sitting Can Still Cause Dangerous Health Problems
While this new research is promising for those who can’t avoid sitting all day, every day, there’s still reason to be worried about your sedentary habits. Being active and getting in a healthy dose of physical activity each day may not be a cure-all for the many dangerous conditions sitting can cause.
Sitting, as TIME Magazine reports, is still an unhealthy act that leaders to higher death rates and chronic conditions that can hinder your quality of life. And for many of us, sitting is the act we spend most of our days doing. Spending eight hours each day in a chair in front of a computer can lead to eye, back, neck, and hip problems; slouching on the couch can cause these problems as well as heart and diet issues, like insulin resistance and a lower metabolic rate.
Ultimately, the more time you spend in the same position each day, the more likely you’re becoming prone to developing health problems or conditions, even if you try to stay active with a bit of exercise.
How You Can Combat Sitting’s Negative Effects
Exercise alone can’t combat the side effects of sitting. But, as the above research study points out, developing strength and getting moving do have some positive effects.
According to Piedmont.org, even an hour of exercise every day can’t reverse or negate the effects of prolonged sitting. But moving in addition to regular, frequent exercise is a smart way to start reducing your sitting and balancing your body. The following are easy ways to limit the hours you spend sitting and instill new movement habits:
- Walk for two minutes every hour. Set a reminder to get walking each hour throughout the day.
- Take stairs whenever you can and skip the elevator or escalator.
- Wear a pedometer or fitness tracker so you know how many minutes you’ve been active each day and how many steps you’ve taken.
- Turn your lunch break into a quick walk.
- Get up and walk or stand while talking on the phone.
- Set a goal to get up during each commercial break while watching TV and walk a quick lap.
Little movements like these don’t require a trip to the gym or a full body workout – but they can make a world of difference, according to experts at Piedmont.org. So, while sitting may not be entirely terrible or perfectly healthy, there is promise that you can achieve a balance that suits your health and your lifestyle.