- Dr. Nancy
Sitting is the New Smoking
On average, how many hours a day do you spend sitting, uninterrupted? One hour? Two hours? Three…or more?
Our ancient ancestors spent much of their time on the move, hunting and gathering to serve their basic needs. Obviously, the balance between movement and fuel has shifted dramatically over time, most notably since the technological revolution.
Unlike our ancestors, we no longer search for food. Instead, we are now on a quest for time, as hours fly by while we’re hunched over a keyboard. On an average day, many of us are likely sitting more than we are moving and consuming more calories than we are burning. Many of us regularly put in eight-hour workdays seated at a desk – sometimes even more. We then go home and unwind on the couch, binge-watching our favorite shows. The hours begin to add up.
Maybe we make a little time to fit in some exercise each day; however, with more conveniences at our fingertips, we can accomplish a lot more while moving a lot less. The longer we sit, the more our bodies begin to feel tight, tired and sore. It’s clear that too much sitting isn’t good for us. But did you know that it can even lead to earlier mortality?
Sitting and Premature Death
That’s right…too much sitting can kill you! In fact, some are saying that “sitting is the new smoking” because its impact is so significant. According to recent research from the Journal of the American Heart Association, prolonged sitting presents similar health risks as smoking, such as heart disease, lung cancer, and diabetes. It also increases premature death by about 50 percent! Even more surprising, too much sitting increases your risk for an early death regardless of your fitness level or other lifestyle habits.
But sitting isn’t just bad for your heart or metabolism; it is also bad for your brain! Researchers at the University of California have discovered a connection between sedentary behavior and thinning regions in the brain that is critical to new memory formation.
So, what if your job requires you to be at a desk, all day, every day? There are a few simple things you can do to ensure that you keep your body regularly moving for a longer, healthier life.
Tips to Sit Less & Live Longer
1. Fit in Exercise Whenever Possible
Bottom line, the more frequently you work out, the more you reduce your risk of premature death. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. While exercising 10 minutes or more at a time is ideal, shorter but frequent bursts of exercise, like taking the stairs, can also be an excellent way to keep active.
2. Move Every 30 Minutes
Research shows that people who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time have the lowest risk of early death. Meetings and deadlines don’t always offer the freedom to move, but ideally, you don’t want to be sitting for any longer than three hours at a time. Setting a timer on your phone can be a helpful reminder to take regular moments for movement.
3. Use a Fitness Tracker
Fitness trackers are an effective way to ensure you’re getting enough activity in your day. As health and fitness wearables grow in popularity, there is an increasing number of options available for every budget and lifestyle. There are also a wide variety of exercise apps out there to track your progress and monitor your success with motivational milestones to keep you moving.
4. Try a Standing Desk
As awareness grows about the health concerns associated with chronic and prolonged sitting, more companies have already begun re-examining ways they can improve employee wellness. In some environments, adjustable desks are offered to provide workers with opportunities to stand instead of sitting if they so choose. If a standing desk is not an option for you, try moving your laptop to a tall counter or table as a means to squeeze in more standing.
5. Opt for Less Convenience
We live in a world of many technological conveniences, and yet, we take so many of them for granted -- and in some cases to our detriment. Turn back time and reverse the mortal clock by opting for “less convenient” choices in your day. Walk over and have a conversation with your colleague instead of sending an email. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Bike to work instead of drive. Small activities can make a significant impact!
Do you spend excessive amounts of time sitting? Do you experience any health problems that you think could be related to a sedentary lifestyle? Use these tips and my 8 Daily Practices to improve your overall health and well-being so that you can live your life to its fullest.