Are you dying to sit, or are you dying if you sit? Research shows that prolonged sitting can be detrimental to your health. Sitting increases your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. It can even cause death at a younger age. In fact, a systemic review published by The BMJ supports this. The above graph (BMJ 2016;354:i3857) shows the continuous risk curves for association between physical activity and some chronic diseases that increase with decreased activity.
How can you reverse these negative effects? It takes about an hour of moderate intensity physical activity every single day to eliminate the negative effects eight hours of sitting poses on a person. Studies have found that those who performed an hour of moderate intensity physical activity after sitting were at a lower risk of death than those who sat fewer hours a day but were not physically active. It is recommended to follow the guidelines given by the American Cancer Society and work your way up from there. The American Cancer Society guidelines on physical activity for cancer preventions are as follows from the ACS website:
• Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.
• Children and teens should get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day, with vigorous activity on at least 3 days each week.
• Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, watching TV, and other forms of screen-based entertainment.
• Doing some physical activity above usual activities, no matter what one’s level of activity, can have many health benefits.
What is the difference between moderate and vigorous intensity activities? Moderate intensity requires a moderate amount of effort and noticeably increases your heart rate. Some examples include; going on a brisk walk, dancing, playing volleyball, golfing, mowing the lawn, or lifting for an occupation such as custodial work. Vigorous intensity requires you to give a large amount of effort. It causes rapid breathing and a faster heart rate. You may start to sweat in this category. Some examples of vigorous activities include; jogging/running, circuit weight training, digging, fast bicycling, jumping rope, playing basketball, swimming, or heavy manual labor jobs such as construction.
What if you have a desk job? Try to break up prolonged periods of sitting throughout the work day. Get up and move. Breaking up the day is important; get something to drink, use the restroom at the other end of the building, go for a walk over lunch break, take the stairs, or walk to discuss something with a coworker versus emailing. Some employers also have adjustable sit/standing desks that allow their employees to continue working while getting up out of sitting.
Sitting is something that has increased in today's society secondary to desk jobs and electronics. Research has found that sitting for more than three hours watching T.V. was linked to increased risk of death to even the most active of people. Improve your health and don't become accustom to sitting all day. Prolong your life. Get up and move.