Even if you exercise regularly, too much sitting could shorten your life
With employment and entertainment becoming ever more sedentary, sitting down for hours is the norm for many of us. But in the last decade, research has increasingly proved that prolonged sitting is a health risk in itself, regardless of how much or how little exercise we do.
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2008 estimated that for every hour we sit watching TV after the age of 25, our life expectancy decreases by 21.8 minutes, while a 2012 study in the Lancet estimated that inactivity causes 9% of premature deaths. So how does sitting shorten life expectancy?
Recent studies showed a 147% increase in the incidence of cardiovascular events (incidents causing heart muscle damage) and a 112% increase in diabetes risk amongst those spending longest sitting, compared to those who sat least. Inactivity is known to increase breast and colon cancer risk, too – and unsurprisingly, obesity.
We know prolonged inactivity results in decreased bone density, and evidence now shows it reduces the action of enzymes that maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Tackling the Problem
A moderately active lifestyle which includes housework, walking or gardening is ideal. Take regular active breaks from seated activities like reading and watching TV: mop the floor, take a quick walk, or do a few minutes of ‘step’ (an exercise step isn’t required. Stairs will do). You could also consider:
Reducing your sitting time by standing on public transport, walking or biking to the station, or getting off the bus earlier
Standing or walking while on the phone
A standing desk, a desk that converts between sitting and standing, or a unit that converts your normal desk to a standing one
Sitting on a yoga ball; your core muscles will be used constantly to retain balance
Walking or organising a sporting activity at lunchtime
Active Sitting. It won’t replace standing or walking, but makes sitting healthier. Try raising your heels up and down; contracting your stomach muscles; raising and lower your lower leg from knee height or whole leg from hip height; swivelling your office chair using just your hips; tensing, stretching and bending your arms; rolling your shoulders.
So next time you’re about to start something, stop. Does it have to be done sitting down? If not, then don’t sit!