A stream of medical news headlines over the past few months has been hammering home the same point: sitting is terrible for us, and it’s causing major concern among doctors (and those of us who sit for eight or more hours a day
at desk jobs and during our daily commute).
Much research has been conducted on the topic of sedentary lifestyles, and here are just some of the frightening findings.
• A review of 47 studies shows that the time a person spends sitting each day produces detrimental effects that outweigh the benefits reaped from exercise.
• Sitting was found to increase your risk of death from virtually all health problems.
• For example, sitting for more than eight hours a day was associated with a 90 percent increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes and a 147 percent increased relative risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who sit the least.
• All-cause mortality is also increased by 50 percent. In fact, chronic sitting has a mortality rate similar to smoking!
• An article published in the British Medical Journal highlights the hazards of our sedentary lifestyle with findings that indicated sitting increases lung cancer by 54 percent; uterine cancer by 66 percent, and colon cancer by 30 percent.
• The less you exercise, the more pronounced the detrimental effects of sitting.
The reason for this increased health risk is thought to be linked to weight gain and associated biochemical changes, such as alterations in hormones, metabolic dysfunction, leptin dysfunction and inflammation. Research also shows that your risk for anxiety and depression rises right along with hours spent in your chair.
Dr. James Levine, co-director of the Mayo Clinic and the Arizona State University Obesity Initiative, and author of the book Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, has conducted investigations that show that when you’ve been sitting for a long period of time and then get up, a number of molecular cascades occur. For example, within 90 seconds of standing up, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol—which are mediated by insuli—are activated.
All of these molecular effects are activated simply by carrying your own bodyweight. These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuel into your cells and, if done regularly, will decrease your risk of diabetes and obesity.
Basically, at the molecular level, our bodies were designed to be active and on-the-move all day long. When we stop moving for extended periods of time, it’s like telling the body that it’s time to shut down and prepare for death… (a little dramatic, but you get the idea.)
Dr. Levine notes that while we need to rest from time to time, that rest is supposed to break up activity—not the other way around! Inactivity—sitting—is not supposed to be a way of life.
As a consequence of sitting, our blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and toxic build-up all rise.
The solution to these adverse events is to get up, and avoid sitting down as much as possible. If you’ve been sitting down for a full hour, you’ve sat for too long, and the cellular mechanisms involved in the maintenance of your body and health are shutting down.
So, get up! Get up! Get up!