Did you know that staying seated for several hours is said to be as deadly as smoking? Yes, recent studies show that sitting for long hours is linked to certain health risks, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer. Metabolic syndrome is another adverse effect from prolonged sitting, which is a disorder that involves a multitude of conditions, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excessive body fat around the waist area, and irregular cholesterol levels.
Staying in a seated position for more than six hours a day increases the odds of dying from a health issue within the next 15 years by 40%. A recent study compared the health conditions of adult individuals who spent a maximum of two hours a day in front of the television or computer with those who did the same activities for more than four hours a day. The results of the said study reveal that people who spent longer hours sitting had 50% higher risk of death from health problems, and an estimated 125% risk of conditions associated with cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, most people on average remain in a sitting position for 7.7 hours per day, a 2008 research by Vanderbilt University confirms.
The “Sitting Disease”
This ‘sitting disease’ is a term that was coined by Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist. The sitting disease is primarily caused by sedentary living, and Dr. Levine discusses in a video the many types of diseases that adult individuals can develop as a result of prolonged sitting. The video also shows a few simple routines that you can do on a daily basis to ensure that you keep moving from time to time while you are at your office desk or having a Netflix marathon at home.
How to Prevent the Adverse Health Effects of Sitting
To refrain from sitting for long hours at your office desk, Tim Ellis, director at a physiotherapy center in Mascot, NSW, Australia, recommends this practice called ergonomic “microbreaking”. Microbreaks are short but physically beneficial breaks that you can take from time to time so you do not stay in just one position for a long period of time. There is no specific task or routine to perform during your breaks, you simply have to be mindful of how long you have remained in a sitting position and make an effort to stand at least once every hour and do a few moderate activities for a total of thirty minutes within the day.
Dr. Brian Parr, an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Health Sciences at the University of South Carolina Aiken, explains that performing moderate activity during microbreaks is not the same as exercising. Activities could be as simple as standing up and walking over to your boss’ office or going to your colleague’s desk to discuss a report instead of responding to their emails, or opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator when arriving at work and leaving for home.
The main thing to remember is, never stay seated for a long time. It is that simple! Keeping these suggestions in mind can greatly affect your health and keep you from acquiring diseases associated with prolonged sitting.
Tim Ellis is the Principal Physiotherapist at Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness in Mascot, New South Wales, Australia. He specialises in treating complex necks and backs and developing highly effective exercise programs for his patients. Tim is committed to integrative health, healthy eating, exercise, and life long learning which he shares through his blogs.