This goes out to all students, writers, office assistants, computer techs, dental hygienists, communication specialists and more, it’s time we have a serious talk about the health impacts of prolonged sitting.
That’s right, many are suggesting sitting is the new smoking, and too much of this sedentary action is causing us serious health problems.
About 80% of jobs today exclude any level of physical exertion, meaning 80% of people are spending on average anywhere from 5-10 hours a day sitting for prolonged periods of time. This statistic proves worrisome considering the slew of medical literature available today showing how inactivity, i.e., prolonged static sitting periods, significantly impacts your cardiovascular and metabolic function.
What’s surprising to note, however, is that even people who exercise regularly aren’t exempt from the health impacts of prolonged sitting.
The Cancelling-Out Effect: Something Gym-Goers Should Know
One study found that prolonged sitting has a counteractive effect for people who spend anywhere from 2-4 hours a week at the gym, no matter how vigorous a workout they take on. For example, if someone were to exercise for 1 hour in the morning, and then spend 6 hours sitting at work afterwards, many of the health benefits from the morning workout would be counteracted.
According to David Dunstan with the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, the lack of muscle contraction caused by static sitting decreases blood flow through your body, thereby reducing the efficiency of biological processes.
A recent study found that even one hour of sitting impaired blood flow to the main arteries by 50%. On the flip-side, however, just 5 minutes of walking every hour can subdue the risks of heart disease associated with prolonged sitting.
As Dr. Mercola discusses in his article, Walking More May Be Key for a Longer, Healthier Life, when you have been sitting for a long period of time and then get up, at a molecular level, within 90 seconds of getting off your bottom, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol—which are mediated by insulin—are activated.
As soon as you stand up, a series of molecular mechanisms at the cell level set off a cascade of activities that impact the cellular functioning of your muscles. The way your body handles blood sugar is beneficially impacted, for example. Therefore, the disease prevention for diabetes comes into play.
Sitting Down Too Much May Accelerate The Aging Process
When we spend periods of time sitting, we are keeping our cells from experiencing the biological benefits of gravity, which can accelerate the aging process. Former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, Jone Vernikos, elaborates on this:
“In essence, sitting prevents your body from interacting with and exerting itself against gravity. While not nearly as severe as the antigravity experienced by astronauts, uninterrupted sitting mimics a microgravity situation, which has the effect of accelerating the aging process. Physical movements, such as standing up or bending down, increase the force of gravity on your body, and this is key to counteracting the cellular degeneration that occurs when you’re sitting down.”
How To Reverse The Damage Being Done: Time To Get Moving
You may work 8 hours a day or go to school for many hours at a time so you have to sit, I know and but don’t worry, there are ways to help even if that is your lifestyle.
Two of the best things to do is to change what you are sitting on and how often you sit. Take regular breaks from your work and walk around. Every 30 minutes you should be up for about 5 minutes to get your body moving and blood flowing.
You can also change what you are sitting on. A great example of seating that allows you to actually move is The CoreChair. This chair moves, rocks and swivels as you shift your body weight around while you are sitting. Not only does it strengthen your core but you also get the benefits of movement.
Recently the CoreChair was given NEAT certification by the Mayo Clinic. NEAT stands for the science of nonexercise activity thermogenesis and was developed by the Mayo Clinic. By having this certification, the CoreChair is effectively allowing you to move enough in the chair that you are actually burning calories.
But not so fast, this doesn’t replace walking around and exercise, it simply means that you can still gain health benefits from sitting if you use the chair.
So be sure to mix walking around during the day with a good seating option. The benefits of walking may be underestimated by some, however, it is clear that sitting is directly sabotaging our health.
In fact, there are a plethora of health benefits to walking. It is particularly beneficial to people who have a difficult time doing more intense workouts, such as the chronically ill, obese, or elderly.
In the end, the effects of sitting come down to a lifestyle change and it can be possible for anyone. Use the tips listed above and also think deeply about the quality and type of chair you are sitting on, it often goes overlooked yet makes a huge difference.
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