If you count the number of hours you spend sitting a day, you may be amazed. It could be close to half the total hours a day for people. If you sleep for say 7 to 8 hours, then you can imagine just how long your body remains sedentary during a day. Research suggests that people who sit for long hours have many health issues and live two years less than those who are more active.
Sitting may not be a deliberate act, but the truth is that it is dangerous. BBC reported on a survey which found that people spent up to 12 hours a day sitting, looking at computers or watching television. Another important finding is that exercise will not undo the damage done by prolonged sitting. You have to make a deliberate effort to reduce the time you sit a day if you want to stay healthy.
Experts give two reasons why sitting is so damaging:
- It changes the way the body deals with glucose. Glucose is a vital fuel but high levels increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Sitting for a long time affects the way the body produces the hormone insulin to help bring glucose levels back down to normal. This process takes place efficiently in people who are physically active.
- Prolonged sitting also sharply reduces the activity of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that breaks down blood fats and makes them available as a fuel to the muscles.
- Sitting compresses the spine and tightens the chest, shoulder and neck muscles, leading to inflexibility and postural problems.
The ill effects of sitting were reported in a study published in the Lancet in the 1950s. The study showed that the bus drivers had double the chances of developing heart disease than bus conductors.
A University of Chester study that evaluated the problems caused by prolonged sitting also looked at whether standing had any benefits. They found that, with standing, blood sugar levels fell back to normal levels after a meal and that it also burned more calories. Other benefits of standing:
- Improves posture and reduces aches and stiffness
- Reduces risk of diseases like diabetes and heart problems
- Increases muscle activity
- Improves sense of wellbeing
So how can we sit less and stand more? This can be achieved by making small changes in your lifestyle to reduce the time you spend sitting and creating occasions where you can stand.
- You can ask for a stand desk at work
- When you are on a call at home, stand rather then sit
- Rather than send mail to your colleagues, walk to their desk
- Reduce the time sitting at your computer or watching TV by engaging in physically active sports
According to a LIVESTRONG article, just standing instead of sitting may burn 20 to 50 more calories an hour, depending on your size. Making a standing adjustment for four hours each day can burn an additional 80 to 200 calories, which means you could lose 8 to 20 pounds over a year!