We all know the typical things that can kill you. Knives, car accidents, bullets to the brain, and even steep drops off cliffs. However, did you know that something as simple as sitting every day could cause you to experience a greater likelihood of getting diseases that could potentially kill you? Scary, right?
Sitting comes so naturally to people that it would be almost impossible to stop people from doing it. Especially at the age, most of us are at right now.
How Often Do People Sit?
If you could guess how often the average person sits each day, you would probably guess about 8 to 10 hours. According to the University of Washington’s Whole U, the typical American is sedentary for 21 hours out of the day. Think about it, this includes when you are sleeping, eating breakfast at the dining room table, on your computer at work, etc.. So, it’s no wonder that it can all add up to a lot of time. Even more worrisome, when including exercise and physical activity, people across the U.S. only spend approximately 3 hours out of the day simply standing. In other words, we only use our legs for about 3 hours a day, otherwise, they’re practically useless to us.
This phenomenon is known as “Sitting Disease,” which, in general terms, is a condition of increased sedentary behavior in relation with adverse health effects. Sedentary behavior consists of two parts: the position you are in, which is generally reclining or sitting, and the amount of energy expenditure that your body is experiencing.
The University of Washington’s The Whole U states that a study at the Mayo Clinic found that
for every 2 hours spent sitting 352 calories are conserved as compared to someone standing
That means that the more you sit, the more weight you can possibly gain. Not so fun, right? A Dr. Liem, whom I assume is a part of the study, explains that “standing can help get some of that metabolic activity back up because standing causes contractions in your postural muscles in your back, hips, and knees to keep you upright”.
Even the few of us who try to make an effort to go to the gym every week to compensate for these 21 hours of sitting, it doesn’t make much of a difference if you aren’t consistent. Dr. Brian Liem, MD, FAAPMR, from the University of Washington Sports Medicine, says “lifestyle of prolonged sitting is distinctly different even from a lifestyle absent of routine exercise”. I bet that lack of exercise is probably not nearly as concerning as the idea of sitting down all day. In addition, according to Dr. Elliot O’Connor, DPT, “you can’t undo eight-plus hours of sitting with a workout!”
That means that even an active person who works out constantly can still face the risks that come with “Sitting Disease” if they are living a sedentary lifestyle at home
To avoid being sedentary, you should simply begin by standing.
The problem with trying not to sit these days is that technology makes it 10x harder. We all are sometimes quite literally joined at the hip to our cell phones, laptops, and tablets. These items sometimes require us to be sitting while using them. For instance, a lot of people are working from home right now. Most of these home office workers have to get on their desktop computers or laptops and pull a chair right up next to them to sit down in. This basically encourages people to sit all day long. According to the University of Washington, the average office worker sits for roughly a whopping 80,000 hours in their entire lifetime. That’s a lot more time than any of us would like to spend sitting now knowing that the act could potentially harm us.
Effects of Sitting
Sitting can be just as bad on your body as doing some riskier activities like heavy drinking or smoking. Similarly, both those activities don’t seem so unhealthy in moderation, but over time it can have disastrous effects on your body’s overall health.
The University of Washington claims that “Sitting Disease” can cause a 94% greater chance of death in inactive women who sit for 6+ hours a day, compared to those who stand.
Who would have thought that something like sitting could make the biggest difference in when you’ll die?
As I previously brought up, sitting can be just as bad as smoking. Dr. O’Connor even says that “sitting is the new smoking. This is because sitting doesn’t kill anybody the first time they try it. [However]…a 2011 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that prolonged sitting was associated with an increased risk of 34 chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.”
Solutions To Sitting
After what you’ve just read, you probably don’t want to sit anymore. I don’t blame you. A matter of fact, I’ll even give you some tips to improve your sitting and increase your time standing.
Yes, I know that your computer is necessary for your job or your school work. So, I suggest that you don’t get rid of it. Instead, you should be aware of your posture, bodily movement, and the amount of sitting/reclining you do throughout your day. For instance, if you notice that you’re doing a lot of sitting, try to get about ten minutes of standing in for every hour you sit. In between, try to get in some stretching as well. You’ll be surprised how much this can improve your posture and muscle attention once you sit back down.
When you are sitting, you can also think of an ergonomic posture too which means bringing your keyboard and mouse closer to your body, keeping your shoulder blades pulled back, relaxing your elbows by your side, and maintaining a neutral spine. The University of Washington has a Whole U Working with Better Posture program, if you would like to know more about ergonomic posture to better apply it to your life.
The last thing few smaller tips I would recommend are parking farther away to increase your walking and doing more standing during break periods. These few changes in your life could possibly be the change you need to live a longer and healthier life.
Advice: Next Time…Stand
Standing just a few extra minutes a day can be an effective way to increase cardiovascular health and give you better posture. The constant sitting and slouching as a result of looking at our screens at work or at home isn’t the best for you. So, to combat them, try out some of the solutions above. Your health will thank you later.
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