Don’t Sit Yourself to Death
Add another letter (“h” for those who need help) in the title of this article and you get a completely different article on an entirely different topic. Yes, you read the title of this article correctly, “Don’t sit yourself to death.” Yet, so many are doing just that – sitting themselves to death.
Sitting in considered the “new smoking” when it comes to our health. More and more of us are sitting more and more than we have before – and it is not healthy. The average American now sits 9.5 hours a day. Are you average? Here is the problem. You cannot exercise yourself your way out of 4 hours of sitting a day. We discussed this in Ask Your Doctor if Getting Off Your Bottom is Right for You. Four hours is the magic threshold you do not want to exceed when it comes to sitting.
The Ill Effects of Sitting
“What is so bad about sitting?” you ask. Sitting has many undesirable effects on our health – all of which are preventable simply by sitting less.
- Sitting increases risk of obesity.
- Sitting increases the risk of diabetes.
- Sitting increases risk of heart disease.
- Sitting increase the risk of blood clots.
- Sitting increases the risk of varicose veins.
- Sitting increases the risk of depression and anxiety.
- Sitting increases risk of osteoporosis.
- Sitting increases risk of some cancers.
- Sitting leads to weakened muscles.
This is why you don’t want to sit yourself to death.
We burn fewer calories the more we sit which leads to weight gain. Plus, we tend to lose muscle mass the more sedentary we are. Muscle pound for pound burns more calories than fat. The less muscle we have the less calories burn contributing to weight gain. Sedentary lifestyle increases risk of diabetes (see below) which also increases the risk of obesity.
Developing diabetes is 112% higher for those who live a sedentary lifestyle. We tend to eat less healthy, too, when we are sedentary. Also, the more we sit we the less our bodies react to insulin – the hormone the moves blood sugar from the blood into the cells. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by high insulin levels. Insulin is a fattening hormone contributing to weight gain.
Individuals in sedentary occupations are more prone to heart disease compared to other groups of people on similar diets. Obesity and diabetes (see above) also increase the risk of heart disease.
Blood clots more easily when we are not moving around. Stagnant blood clots easier as opposed to blood that is moving. We have to move to move blood through our veins and back to the heart. This especially true in the legs which has to move blood against gravity to get back to the heart. Sitting increases risk of blood clots in the legs.
Prolonged sitting also leads to varicose veins. Varicose veins are dilated veins that occur from increased blood pressure in the superficial veins resulting from blood that is not circulating very well.
Depression and anxiety
Being sedentary and lack of exercise can disrupt sleep patterns which over time increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Our bodily functions including our glands that produce hormones slow down when we are sedentary. Several studies have shown to be just as effective as some antidepressants in treating depression and anxiety.
Osteoporosis is characterized by weakened bones. Bones require physical activity to stay healthy. In fact, weight bearing exercises are routinely recommended in the treatment of osteoporosis.
Exercise has been shown to reduce the incidence of 13 types of cancers as we discussed in Lower Your Risk of Cancer with Exercise. Simply walking at 3 mph or a mile every 20 minutes will reduce your risk of cancer. The reduction in exercise is attributed to lower insulin levels with exercise and improvement in cholesterol and weight.
This should be obvious. Our muscles weaken when we don’t use them. Muscles most affected by prolonged sitting including the leg muscles and the muscles in the lower abdomen and back. This increases the risk of injury and poor posture. Read Become More Attractive: Improve Your Posture to learn how to sit and to improve your posture for better health.
Don’t sit yourself to death. Consider a standing work station. Take 5 minute breaks from sitting every hour to walk around or do some gentle calisthenics around your work station including stretching exercises. Tap your feet and move your legs some while sitting. This will get the blood circulating more and burn a few additional calories.
Smart watches now alert people to breathe and move around, though you really should be able to recognize the importance of breathing and activity without such prompting.
Don’t sit yourself to death. Move yourself to health. Remember from physics? A body in motion tends to stay in motion. The same is true when it comes to the human body. The more you move the longer you will be able to move.