Dangers of Sitting

SBM: dangers-of-sitting

Kristin Schneider, PhD; Associate Professor, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science

Sitting is an epidemic. Ever had a day when you’ve been sitting, engrossed in something and before you know it, hours have passed? Adults in the U.S. report 7 hours of daily sitting and 50% report over 3 hours of daily television viewing.

But why is sitting bad for your health? What are the sitting risks?

Too much sitting is associated with disability, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mortality. You might argue, “But I exercise! That must combat the evils of sitting!” Not so fast. Most concerning about the link between sitting and disease is that these studies often control for physical activity meaning that, regardless of your participation in regular physical activity, sitting all day might still increase your disease risk.

Because of the health hazards of sitting, physical inactivity and copious sitting may represent distinct disease risk factors, each deserving of attention, just like too consuming too much fat and not consuming enough fruits and vegetables.

What can you do to decrease sitting? Evidence is beginning to accumulate and several strategies hold promise to decrease the time spent sitting and reverse the effects of sitting.

  1. Stand up. Standing workstations decreased sitting time by 84 to 116 minutes per day at least in the short term. Standing desks can be made or purchased. Once you have selected your standing desk, make sure that the fit is comfortable. The desk height should be positioned such that your elbows can rest comfortably on the desk at a 90ᴼ angle. Keep comfortable shoes in the office and considering purchasing an anti-fatigue mat to ensure that your increased standing does not result in other aches and pains.
  2. Break it up. Schedule hourly breaks throughout your day. You can do this simply by adding breaks to your calendar or more seriously by downloading software like Awareness or workrave, which alerts you to take work breaks (glow sticks and techno music optional). Shorter, more frequent breaks, like 1-2 minutes every 30 minutes, appear to be more effective at decreasing sitting time than longer, less frequent breaks.
  3. Mix it up. Alter your workplace culture to encourage standing and movement. When possible, deliver a message the old-fashioned way-by walking to your colleague’s office rather than sending an email or calling. Speak to your supervisor about standing during meetings. Be creative with the ways that you can break up sitting during your work day.
  4. Give it up. At home, resist the urge to veg out on the couch. Select which shows you want to watch for the week and stick to those selections rather than turning on the television indiscriminately. Catching up with a friend via phone? Walk or stand while you talk.

Be careful not to forgo your exercise routine just because you are standing more throughout your day. Initial research suggests that we receive different benefits from exercise and from standing.

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