Are you sitting for long hours each day?
I certainly am, I know. So many hours working on this website, and others. And, I spent many years as a public servant in various government departments. Public servants in Australia, particularly in Canberra, the federal capital, are called “shinyarses”. You can guess why their bureaucratic bottoms get so shiny.
This story gave me a real shock, having so much of my life sitting on plastic government seats, and so many hours at computers (ever since there ever was a PC).
Those of us former or present shinyarses, addicts for playing games or you-tubing (even if you don’t admit it), or TV soaps and un-reality shows, long distance truck drivers…take note!
There are some serious health issues from sitting so long…but take heed!
You can make amends and you can add years of healthier happier and more mobile later in life… when such is so precious it is priceless…compared with an earlier onset of bad health, and mobility, and the grumpiness that affects you and those you love… if you continue your sedentary ways.
When you work at any job that requires long hours sitting at a computer – programming, accounting, writing, or driving, or at home playing games, you-tubing, facebooking, or watching TV – it is so very easy to stay in that one position for eight to nine hours every day.
Sure, you might stop or get up for a pee break, a tea break, stop for a highway burger, or go to the fridge for a beer but between times you may be sitting in the chair or lounge for several hours.
Killing Yourself by Sitting
Yes, but I’m not going to go on and on about the good years you are losing, or say you should quit the hours in front of a computer or TV screen, or an office desk or a driving wheel. I just want to urge you to take frequent breaks…to get up and walk around for, say 5 minutes, every hour… for any reason, or for no other reason than to walk around.
I know a lot of you have no choice about sitting. If you can arrange to do office work, design work, studies, or computer or gaming standing up, then it will do you good to do that some of the time.
It will do you good to reduce the length of time spent sitting. There are long term studies show sitting too long can impact the big four – cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Overall – You will die a years earlier, or at least your latter years will be unhealhtier, unhappier, (grumpier) and less mobile, for you, and of course those around you that you love. Thinking about that!
Many studies now consistently (as with tobacco) that being physically inactive leads to a whole list of health problems that will kill you. Taking everything into account, the World Health Organization reports that being physically inactive comes in fourth as a leading risk factor for an early death.
Just how much of a difference can it make? Well, a study published in the March 26th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that after taking a large cross section of 200,000 people into account, there was a clear “association” between the act of sitting and “all-cause mortality”. Bottom line – sitting over eleven hours a day results in a 40 percent higher chance of dying from any cause at all. That’s crazy.
The WHO report mentioned above solidifies this finding. Inactivity was found to be the main cause of about a quarter of breast and colon cancers, 27 percent of diabetes cases, and 30 percent of heart disease cases.
The study in the Archives of Internal Medicine came from researchers at the University of Sydney, who reported that going to the gym or taking a walk is well and good, but that prolonged sitting may actually be eliminating the health effects of that workout entirely.
It seems like every week there is another cause of cancer found or suspected…But sitting? Yes! Sitting increases your risk of getting cancer in a very big way. The American Institute for Cancer Research held its annual conference early in 2012 and highlighted at that conference were specific research findings showing that 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer in the U.S. could be linked to inactivity.
It seems like such a cop-out doesn’t it? Like, researchers can’t find a specific correlation so they point at the fact that most of the people that got cancer sat around a whole lot. Researchers, such as Dr. Christine Friedenreich, PhD, the leading epidemiologist at Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care who presented at the AICR conference, reported research results that physical activity may actually reduce the small inflammations that become cancerous or arthritic.
The good news is that experts give you a very clear path to wipe out the risk starting right now. Take a break! The AICR responded directly to the research by urging readers to take a break from sitting every single hour – taking a couple of minutes to walk around, stretch, get a drink – whatever – can literally save your life.
There is a solid, proven benefit to taking those breaks. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) published its research findings in the European Heart Journal showing that for 4,757 participants in the study, short periods of light activity – even just a minute at a time – could reduce waistline, increase levels of good cholesterol, and even increase insulin resistance. This is really serious stuff.
That Chair May Give You Diabetes and Heart Disease
Okay, so you know if you don’t give yourself at least a minute break every hour or so, you could be in for some trouble down the road with the C word, but is cancer the only concern (as though that’s not bad enough on its own)?
Well, unfortunately, Diabetes is the other risk factor when it comes to sitting around for hours at a time.
One study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, took into account published scientific studies dating from 1970 all the way to 2011 and found that collectively, the data from those studies reveal a clear correlation between more than two hours of TV viewing time and risk factors for type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease. The risk of heart disease increased by 15 percent. For diabetes, the risk increased by 20 percent for people that watched TV more than two hours a day. 20 percent!
Yet another published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in August of 2011 revealed that when people lower their activity from over 10,000 steps a day to less than 5,000 steps a day, physical changes in the body directly increase that person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.
Obviously, the opposite must hold true. If you get up from from that desk every 40 minutes and take a good 10 minute walk, and then take a nice 60 minute walk after work, the odds are pretty good that you could achieve a daily goal over 10,000 and significantly reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.
There are many other studies, like the one out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst that showed that “1 day of sitting elicits large reductions in insulin action”, and another study from the University of South Carolina that found a direct correlation between time spent sitting and riding in a car, and cardiovascular disease death.
Sitting Too Long and Obesity
It should come as no surprise to anyone that if you sit too long during the day, you’ll get fat. So I’m not going to bore you with research that proves that, it’s pretty obvious. However, there was one particular study related to obesity and sitting too long that really threw me for a loop.
Clearly, the inactivity of sitting burns fewer calories and most people likely are not cutting down on calories just because they’re sitting so long (in fact, they’re probably snacking more), so that positive calorie balance will go directly to your bottom – or for some people, their spare tires.
But did you know that the mechanical pressure on your backside itself literally forces the cells in your arse to transform into larger fat cells? Crazy right? It’s true. Gives validity to “get off your arse!”
Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that the preadipocyte cells, which are the cells in your body that turn into fat cells, will actually transform into fat cells faster when they are put under long periods of “mechanical stretching loads”.
This means – my dieting friends – that you can try and cut calories, but if you plan to continue sitting behind that desk for three or four hour stretches at a time without a single break, the odds are pretty good that you’re going to have some major junk in the trunk.
Unfortunately, the list doesn’t stop there. During my escapades through literary journals and University research websites, I discovered studies showing links between sitting too long and everything from increased risk of kidney disease, to a high risk for blood clots in the legs. In fact, the blood clot issue related to excessive computer use is becoming known in medical circles as “e-thrombosis”.
So, now that you know sitting on that chair for several hours at a stretch is nearly as bad for your health as smoking, what are you going to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to install an Android timer on my tablet, set it to go off at work every 40 minutes, and take a 5 minute walk. It may not sound like much, but those breaks could literally save your life.
Some recent reported studies of many thousand people over many years have shown that regular moderate exercise (like brisk walking or riding a bike) for half to one hour a day can increase your healthy life by up to 10 years.
Do you have any ideas how to take some pressure off your backside during the day? What do you plan to do – if anything – to make a change?
Make the Change
Get off your arse and take breaks several times during each sitting session – at least.
Get regular moderate exercise. If that is not practical at work then brisk walking or riding bike to and from work (or train station) is good regular exercise, and purposeful.
If that is too much exercise, or that you cannot do, start with an electric bike and reduce the assistance as you become fitter.