We are sitting ourselves to death. I find myself, probably like many of you, spending way too much time in front of my desk and computer. When at work, we sit more than we do anything else. We are planting ourselves on a chair or couch for 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping and that is not even including the time we spend in front of the television! What we all have in common in the modern workday is our, um, bum.
For that matter, sitting is so customary and inescapable that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry is doing it also, so it doesn’t even cross our minds that it’s not okay. In that way, I agree that sitting is the smoking in relation to general health. According to James Levine, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting.”
According to the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention), chronic diseases are now the number one threat to public health, far surpassing infectious diseases in the U.S. Sedentary lifestyles are themselves a risk factor for heart disease and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and all-cause mortality. If you sit for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity you have a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.
Want more bad news? While you’re sitting yourself to death, you’re probably getting brain atrophy (thinning of areas in your brain) and losing your memory, as new research shows. The areas of your brain (the hippocampus and surrounding structures) that you are losing by sitting are essential for memory function.
One hour of sitting is as unhealthy as smoking two cigarettes!
By getting up from your desk once every hour means that you can reduce your risk of getting breast cancer by 21% and colon cancer by 25%. You are 27% less likely to get a stroke and 30% less likely to get type 2 diabetes. You can reduce your risk of getting hypertension by 50%.
So what can we do? We have to work after all is said and done, which means sitting behind a desk and computer. The first priority is to move as often as possible, including huffing and puffing every so often.
- Take a 5-minute break to stand up and walk around every 30 to 60 minutes. (a reminder on your phone will help you to do this).
- Try standing while talking on the phone or watching television.
- Walk with your co-workers for meetings rather than sitting in a conference room.
- If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.
The human body just isn’t made to sit long periods of time. A hundred years ago when we were all labouring in the fields and slogging away in factories, an obesity pandemic did not exist. But since our work patterns these days mean we cannot exactly run free in the fields anymore, we have to help our bodies in other ways.
We have a right to stand up for our right to stand up.
- Barlow, C. E., Shuval, K., Balasubramanian, B. A., Kendzor, D. E., Radford, N. B., DeFina, L. F., & Gabriel, K. P. (2016). Peer Reviewed: Association Between Sitting Time and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors After Adjustment for Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, 2010–2013. Preventing chronic disease, 13.
- Laskowski, E.R. What are the risks of sitting too much? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005
- Macvean M. ‘Get Up!’ or lose hours of your life every day, scientist says. Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-get-up-20140731-story.html
- Merchant, N. (2013). Sitting is the smoking of our generation. Harvard Business Review, 14, 2013.
- Owen N, Bauman A, Brown W Too much sitting: a novel and important predictor of chronic disease risk? British Journal of Sports Medicine2009;43:81-83
- Shuval, K., Finley, C. E., Barlow, C. E., Gabriel, K. P., Leonard, D., & Kohl III, H. W. (2014, August). Sedentary behavior, cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity, and cardiometabolic risk in men: the cooper center longitudinal study. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 89, No. 8, pp. 1052-1062). Elsevier.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy.This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.