How to Reverse the Dangerous Effects of Sitting All Day
It’s been all over the news recently: sitting all day is bad for you. But for most Americans, sitting all day is a reality. Many people in America have a career in which they sit at a desk or in a cubicle all day looking at a computer monitor or answering phones. Sure, standing desks or yoga ball chairs are sometimes an option, but the benefits are relatively unproven and unfortunately those two solutions aren’t a perfect fit for everyone. For instance, the Toronto Workers Health & Safety Centre recently found that standing for a long period of time could lead to sore backs, sore feet and varicose veins, among other negative side effects1
But the reality of what sitting does to our bodies is even scarier. In a recent USA Today article1
, Dr. James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, said this about sitting: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
Experts say that sitting can lead to higher cholesterol levels, greater waist circumference, and cardiovascular and metabolic disease2
. As Dr. Levine says, sitting all day really could be killing us.
So if sitting is bad for us, but standing desks aren’t the best option either, what is there left to do? The answer could be very simple: get up and walk.
According to a study conducted by Indiana University
, a few short walks each day could negate the harmful side effects that sitting can have on our health. Saurabh Thosar, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University and a leader of the Indiana University study, said prolonged sitting impairs endothelial function, or the ability of blood vessels to expand from increased blood flow. The impairment of endothelial function is an early marker of cardiovascular disease.
Thosar’s study found that participants who walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same
– meaning it did not decline as it normally would after a person has been sitting for three hours non-stop.
"American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day," Thosar said. "The impairment in endothelial function is significant after just one hour of sitting. It is interesting to see that light physical activity can help in preventing this impairment."
Make a promise to yourself to get up and take a short walk once an hour – you won’t regret it.
(1) “Why your work chair might be killing you,” by Hamza Ali. Published August 24, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/08/24/cnbc-sitting-at-work-health/14413451/