Sitting is the New Smoking: What You Can Do to Help Yourself
Research has shown that prolonged sitting can increase the risk of developing cancer (including breast, colon, and lung), heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression! That’s scary, especially when you go through a typical day in the life of an average 2017 American:
- Wake up from an unsatisfying night of sleep that lacked quantity, quality or both
- Sit down to have what is most likely a rushed breakfast
- Sit in the car/train on their commute to work
- Sit at a desk until lunch
- Sit while enjoying getting to eat lunch
- Sit at a desk for the rest of the workday until they can leave
- Sit on the ride back home
- Sit during dinner
- Sit down to enjoy some TV
- Have too little energy to do anything else, so head to bed to restart the cycle
That’s a lot of sitting, but unfortunately, that is a pretty typical scenario for many people today. Our culture has become sedentary, yet we wonder why these lifestyle diseases are on the rise. Our society, on average, sits for 9.3 hours per day. That means sitting longer than sleeping! Studies have shown sitting for 6 or more hours per day makes you up to 40% more likely to die within 15 years than someone who sits for less than 3 hours per day. Many patients who come in to our office sit at a desk or perform some other repetitive actions or postures all day during work, which really takes a toll on their bodies-both with potential disease development and musculoskeletal stress and strain. Many patients also say there are not a lot of opportunities for movement at work, and then tell me that they don’t have enough time or energy to exercise after work.
We need to change this though because obviously sitting all day is contributing to major health problems. We can always make time if something is a priority, and I think our health should always be at the top of that list. Dr. James Levine, from the Mayo Clinic, was credited with calling sitting the new smoking. He has been researching the negative health consequences of excessive sitting, and here is a recent quote from him: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
What Can You Do?
Quite simply, we need to move more often. We need to make time for exercise, including cardio, strength training, and flexibility/mobility training. However, according to some of the research, just meeting minimum exercise recommendations doesn’t protect against all the harmful effects of excessive sitting, so we need to decrease sitting during the workday too. I know that sounds tough if you sit at a desk all day, but thankfully, the answer to sitting all day is not standing all day. The biggest behavior change suggestion would be to change postures. Breaking up sitting with standing can give you a postural reset. It is recommended to get up from a seated position every 30 minutes. Simply standing and stretching for a couple of minutes can have a positive effect. In addition to that, adding walking and taking the stairs can be extra beneficial.
If you are in the Hatboro, Horsham, Warminster, or Warrington areas and sit a lot during the day, we’d love to offer a complimentary consultation to see how we may be able to help you. In addition to the negative lifestyle effects of sitting, we have also seen prolonged sitting lead to neck pain, back pain, headaches, etc. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment!