Is Too Much Sitting Dangerous?
If you’re like 86 percent of American workers, you sit all day for your job. Add to that the time you spend sitting on the couch after work watching television, reading, playing games or surfing the internet, and you may be spending approximately 13 hours a day sitting down. But could you be at risk for “Sitting Disease?”
Given the number of workers who perform their tasks on a computer or otherwise seated at a desk, medical experts are starting to become concerned about the health effects of sitting. The scientific community has coined the phrase “Sitting Disease” to refer to the effect sitting has on metabolism, as well as the negative impact of an overly sedentary lifestyle. In fact, some experts even say our chronic immobility is as dangerous to our health as cigarettes.
“Smoking certainly is a major cardiovascular risk factor and sitting can be equivalent in many cases,” Dr. David Coven, cardiologist with St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, said. Coven said the latest research indicates that excessive sitting and inactivity has been linked to a whole host of health problems, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and even premature death. People who sit for more than 11 hours a day have a 40 percent increased risk of death in the next three years, compared with people who sit for four hours or less. The longer people sit, the shorter their lifespan.
How Can You Stand Up Against Sitting Disease?
Before you quit your desk job, arm yourself with information about how you can reduce your risk of health issues that sitting can cause. The key is being more active. But be aware: even if you consider yourself active now, you’re still considered high risk if you spend eight to 10 hours a day sitting. Here are some ideas:
- Aim for more exercise, especially on the days you’re sitting for work. Walking, hiking, biking and swimming are excellent forms of exercise that counter the effects of sitting.
- Consider standing and walking more at work and at home. Instead of calling or messaging a co-worker, walk over to their office.
- Park farther away in the parking lot so that you have another opportunity to walk.
- Invest in a FitBit or other pedometer device and aim for 10,000 steps a day.
- If you park yourself on the couch at night, at least stand up and move or exercise during the commercial breaks.