What if I told you that there is one thing that you’re doing that is slowly killing you? One thing that you subconsciously do for most of your day? You’ll probably think im exaggerating when I tell you that sitting down as your read this article is greatly increasing your chances of dying in the next 15 years. By 40% to be exact. I guarantee you’ll be off of your seat by the end of this article.
Standing up yet? No? How about this; Sitting down increases your likelihood of developing cancer. Sitting down is actually making you fat by turning your body into a fat storing mass. I’m pretty sure you’re standing up now, and if you are, you’ve just learnt something new about yourself. You care more about being slim / lean than you do about dying.
If you’re still calm, and collected, thinking this doesn’t apply to you because you exercise regularly, guess what? It doesn’t matter. Here’s a shocker, Exercise does NOT offset the health risks of prolonged seating.
Right! I’m gona put my serious face on now because this is no laughing matter. If you don’t think it can get worse, lets take a run through some statistics
– A mayoclonic study found that people, despite similar diets had different body weights from a mere difference of 2 hours of seating / day
– Within 2 hours of sitting down, healthy cholesterol plummets by 20%
– 80% of jobs in 1960s’ required moderate physical activity; Today, its 20%
– Each hour of daily television viewing is associated with an 11% increase in the overall risk of mortality rate; REGARDLESS of sex, age, activity level and weight
– A Canadian study fount that 50% of people who sat the most were more likely to die before the follow-up
Ok, enough with that, let’s get detailed, Here’s how sitting down affects your body;
Sitting down for long periods obviously reduces your activity level. That’s a no brainer. However, Obese people only sit an additional 2 hours versus their average weight counterparts.
A British study conducted research examining two groups of individuals; Bus drivers and truck drivers. While both occupations seem similar, truck drivers are actually more active than bus drivers as they have to move around, loading/unloading, climbing the overhead compartments, etc. Bus drivers on the other hand have longer inactive periods, hence are seated for the long haul. The study found that truck drivers had less body fat (more specifically, belly fat).
Sitting down directly affects a fat-burning enzyme called lipoprotein (LPL). In fact, LPL levels decrease by 90% as soon s a person sits down. A study found that rats forced to lie down for the most of their waking hours had 10 times less LPL activity compared to another group of rats left to wander freely. Adding exercise did NOT change LPL levels. This tells us that exercising is not the answer; the solution is to lessen the amount of time that we are seated.
In the 1960s, 1% of Americans were diagnosed with diabetes and 13% were obese. Today, 6% are diabetic and 35% obese.
Another study showed that men, who decreased their walking by 85% for 2 weeks had a 17% decrease in insulin sensitivity (not a good thing). This is more of a concern for women. A study found that there was a positive correlation between a woman’s likelihood of having diabetic risk factors with increased seating. Risk measures tested for were insulin resistance, chronic inflammation.
People who have desk jobs are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than those with physical jobs. that’s 100% more likely!!
In the same study mentioned earlier, concerning the bus and truck drivers; It was found that the bus drivers (who sat for longer periods) were twice as likely to die from heart disease.
Like I said, sitting down for just 2 hours causes your HDL (healthy) cholesterol to drop by 20%. This means that you have more bad circulating cholesterol (LDL) in your blood. If you read my previous articles, you’ll know that HDL cholesterol helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels by binding the bad cholesterol. With decreased levels, you’re at risk of developing high cholesterol and in turn putting you at higher risk of developing heart disease.
A gene known as ‘9p21’ is directly linked to heart disease. While exercising does not offset this gene no matter how hard and intensely you train, it is affected by sitting down. The activity of the gene is increased by long periods of being seated.
Most of us have desk jobs. On top of that, many display poor sitting posture. Our body is adaptive and will conform to our habits i.e. what we do most. If this article caught your attention, you’re probably sitting down with your head closer to the screen. Notice how your back is hunched and shoulders rounded? We exhibit this posture for most of our seated time and it eventually becomes our normal posture. This happens due to something known as Fascia.
Fascia is a web of connective tissue that spans our entire body. This web covers our whole body and wraps around our muscles from head to toe. When you sit, notice the position of your hips (how close they are to your pelvis). In this position, our hip flexors are contracted and hence shortened. We stay in this position for the most part. The longer time spent sitting causes the muscles to shorten, wrapping the fascia tighter and tighter and in time, our hips become less mobile.
Another effect of prolonged seating is known as ‘muscle amnesia’. This particularly affects the gluteal muscles (aka butt muscles). As the name implies, our gluteal muscles, due to prolonged inactivity are switched off and stop functioning when needed. As a result, the surrounding muscles are overloaded (which are already tight as mentioned above). Talk about a recipe for disaster!!
As our shoulders round forward, our upper back becomes weaker, giving you that forward hunched look. And no, that look isn’t in 😉
So, as you can see, apart from the adverse health risks, sitting down will lead to further muscle imbalances that will affect your body’s kinetic chain. This will cause lack of mobility, stiffness, and greatly increases your chances of injury. Which funny enough, will lead you to be seated for longer periods. (Not really funny ey?).
I explained how this affects the optimal function of your muscles and how it can greatly lead to injuries in this article.
So what’s an average desk Joe to do? Non-exercise
No I haven’t lost it just yet, even though I have written this entire article standing up. I really did. Non-exercise is exactly what you should be doing. Apart from your regular exercise routine, non-exercise is nothing but sitting less than you normally would. Find ways to lessen the amount of time that you spend sitting down.
For example, you could have read this article standing up. Take a brisk walk for half of your lunch break and have your lunch standing up. Out clubbing? Rather than spending most of your time sitting down, dance and shake what your momma gave ya! When you’re not dancing, stand at the bar, who needs those VIP tables 😉 At the beach? Stand in shallow waters rather than sitting / lying down for a tan.
These are all small changes, but will take away from the time you would normally be sitting.
To end this article, here’s a visual presentation on some more statistical data on health risks brought on by sitting down. Lets all stand up for it! 🙂