Even though leisure is probably the topic of most conversations, and what we long for the most — our bodies aren’t really designed for sitting. We are designed for movement. That’s why sitting too much for long periods of time is known to shorten life spans.
But, we all have to sit from time to time, and some of us more than others. So,
How Much Sitting Is Too Much?
To tell you the truth, it’s easier to state positively the ill effects of sitting than it is to pin down a concrete answer to how much is too much.
But, here’s what is known from reliable research:
When you sit in excess of eight hours a day with no exercise to counter the effects — the risk numbers are about the same as dying from smoking or obesity.
Sitting Is The New Smoking
There is no doubt that continuous sitting for long periods of time will shorten your life. However, it’s important to note that working at a desk isn’t the only culprit.
The same problems occur whether you sit too much at work, in retirement, for hobbies, or anything else and is known to increase the risk of:
- Heart Disease
- Metabolic Syndrome
- And obesity
Let’s See How Obesity Comes Into Play
One of the main problems with sitting too long is it’s tendency to promote obesity, and obesity is tied to every other problem in the list above.
We are made for movement, and that movement burns calories. When we stay in the same position hour after hour, there is not nearly enough movement to burn the calories we consume.
That’s part of the reason it doesn’t matter whether it’s at work, reading, watching TV, or building model airplanes.
When you sit, you don’t burn calories. That is if you aren’t using under desk exercise equipment that can be used at home or at work?
And in case you haven’t noticed, you eat quite a bit more when you aren’t moving around. Way more than you do exercising or any physical activity.
Here’s another reason you gain weight when you sit too much, that you may not be aware of:
Your body is doing it’s best to create a cushion between you and your chair. So, it naturally produces more fat cells in your butt, along with other parts of your body.
How Sitting Can Cause Cancer
There is a close tie between obesity, sitting, and certain cancers. There’s a lot of research going on, and so far the facts are that obesity increases colon cancer risk, and so does sitting too much.
They also know that obesity increases the risk of pancreatic cancer, along with kidney, breast and esophagus. And we know that sitting is definitely linked to obesity.
How To Lessen The Risk of Obesity Linked to Sitting?
The answer to that question is fairly simple: Eat more healthy foods, eat less junk foods, and either sit less or exercise more.
When it comes to your diet, be wise about how you need to burn calories in proportion to what you consume. And, watch where you are getting your calories from?
Just like humans are designed for movement, we are designed to eat meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, and nuts. None of our parts were ever meant to live on a steady diet of refined foods, and especially refined sugar and flour.
More specifically, watch the number and kind of calories you consume. Fresh fruits and vegetables have the lowest number of calories, yet still fill you up. Some are even “negative” foods meaning it takes more calories for your body to process them than what they contain.
What to do to counter the effects of sitting?
- Standing desk are much better health wise than sitting at a desk
- Using an under desk treadmill is even better
- Under desk bicycle pedal machines are not expensive at all compared to your health.
- If you spend any time on the phone, try standing to talk. If possible, walk around while talking.
- Either walk instead of eating lunch, or walk after lunch before going back to work.
- Do the simple stuff like taking the stairs and parking as far away from the door as possible
Does Exercise Reverse the Effects of Sitting Down Too Much?
The facts are in and the evidence is conclusive that sitting down too much can be deadly.
But, can you reverse the ill effects with regular exercise?
3 Studies to Answer the Question
Walking Breaks Every Hour
If you sit for long periods of time, you already know the problem of blood pooling in your lower extremities. And one way to deal with that is by getting up and walking around every few minutes.
There was a study done at Indiana University showing that men who walked on treadmills 5 minutes out of each hour significantly reduced blood pooling.
Standing Breaks Every Hour
There was another study done at the same university that went into what happened with standing for the same 5 minutes every hour without any movement.
The results for standing only 5 minutes an hour turned out to be quite poor compared to walking.
So it’s evident that merely standing still a few times a day isn’t enough for significant change. It’s far better if you can find ways to move for a few minutes each hour.
As you know, much of that depends on your work enviroment. If you work at home, it could be worthwhile to look into under desk exercise equipment, and even a standing desk.
Exercise After Work
As you might well imagine, there’s another study proving that exercising after sitting all day will not have the same effects as movement during the day.
Regular exercise is crucial to overall health, but does little for the pooling of blood in your legs while sitting.
So the timing of your exercise is crucial as to the effect it produces.
Taking even the shortest of breaks all through the day can help lower blood sugar, improve circulation, burn calories, and have some effect on blood pressure.
All of those can help with reducing the risk of diabetes, strokes, obesity and heart disease.
Some of us simply can’t eliminate the problem of sitting too much. However, taking action to overcome obesity and taking what measures you can to move your feet and legs during the day is the key to better health.