Why Sitting is Killing You—And What You Can Do to Stop it

standing desk

Be honest… how much do you sit during the day?

6 hours? 10 hours? More?

You’re not alone.

Because whether it’s due to a desk job, a long commute, or just hours of TV watching or video game playing a day, the typical American sits for 8 to 10 hours a day.

But while it may be normal to sit that much… it sure isn’t healthy.

In fact, here’s the ugly truth: sitting all day is not only bad for your health—it can also kill you.

Sit less, live longer

As a nation, we have a sitting epidemic.

We sit all day at work.

We sit all day in the car, driving to and from work and running errands (with no actual running involved).

We sit during our entertainment. Movies, television, video games, watching (but not playing) sports, you name it.

But we have to stop. If we do, it can add years (literally) onto our lives, since according to the BBC, scientists say that reducing your sitting time to three hours a day can add two years to your life expectancy.

And who doesn’t want to live longer?

What happens when you sit

The moment you sit down, three things begin to happen immediately:

  • Your calorie burning drops to 1 per minute (as opposed to 3 to 10 per minute when exercising)
  • Enzymes that help break down fat drop production by 90%
  • All electrical activity in your leg muscles shuts down completely

And that’s not all.

After two hours, your good cholesterol drops by 20%.

After 24 hours, your insulin production drops by 24%—and your risk of diabetes rises significantly.

Sit frequently, and your risk for obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart attack, stroke risk and overall death risk goes through the roof.

So what can you do about it?

It’s not always easy to change your sitting habits. After all, most people do have a desk job, and have no choice but to commute to and from work every day.

As a writer, I’m fully aware of these limitations. After all, I’m pretty much only productive when I’m sitting and typing.

Yes, I can think and even take notes while walking at times, but the majority of my real work is done while sitting at a desk (or, if I need a change of scenery, at a cafe).

So if this is you, know that you’ll never be able to change your lifestyle as much as if you could if you farmed or worked construction for a living. But there are several steps you can take to dramatically increase your health (and your life expectancy!):

Get a stand up desk

One of the best things you can do for your health if you have a desk job? Get a stand up desk.

Or better yet, a desk that can be used both as a sitting and standing desk, since according to Men’s Health, prolonged standing can lead to the development of musculoskeletal disorders, especially in the legs, knees and lower back.

Stand up desks are a great way to stop sitting all day long—while still getting your work done.

And yes, they can be expensive—but you can also just make one. Read this article from the Lifehacker.com to learn how to create your own. Or, just be creative and put your computer on top of books, chairs, or whatever you have around the house, like in the photo above.

Also, if you want an even greater benefit, give a treadmill desk a try (yes, they do exist!). One of these babies will set you back nearly $2,000, but the benefits of walking instead of sitting all day may well be worth the enormous expense.

Take walking meetings

If you’ve ever read the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, you’ll know that the late Apple co-founder and CEO was famous for conducting most of his important meetings while walking—rather than sitting in a stuffy, windowless room.

This is a really great way to avoid sitting all day, and even counts as exercise, since walking burns 3 to 5 more calories per minute than sitting does.

Plus, as an added benefit, walking gets you outside, and can get your creative juices flowing much more than staying sedentary does.

Get up every 50 minutes

If a standing desk isn’t an option, and your work doesn’t allow for walking meetings, the next best option is to get up and move a little at a minimum of once an hour.

Getting up once every 50 minutes counteracts many of the negative effects of sitting and do wonders for your health. And you can be discreet about it if you have to be—go and walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of sending her an email, get up to fill your cup of water, or simply take a coffee break once or twice a day.

It doesn’t take much, but it may make all the difference.

Try voice recognition software

Yes, we all know that Siri isn’t perfect, and I probably wouldn’t ever try to use my iPhone 5 to write a blog post with her help. But the technology is improving, and you can use software like Dragon Dictation for Mac (I’ve only used the free version) to write while you talk.

So whether you write for a living like me, or just need to jot down some ideas, try walking or even pacing while you’re working to avoid sitting for hours on end.

Don’t just sit when you watch TV

We all need some time at the end of the day to relax and unwind. And whether your Achille’s heel is watching sports, flipping through the news of the day, or catching up on all your favorite shows, you don’t have to give up TV altogether in order to cut down on your sedentary habit.

Rather than plopping down on the couch next time you turn on the TV, make an effort to move instead.

Anything helps.

Do some yoga, see how many push ups and sit ups you can fit in during a commercial break, or jump rope in front of the TV.

Since I find it difficult to dedicate time solely for recovery, I use this trick often, regularly foam rolling or doing some light yoga and stretching while I’m watching a show.

Get up and move

There’s no doubt about it: sitting all day not only greatly increases your risk for diabetes, obesity and low back pain, it can also take years away from your life.

But there’s an easy answer…

Sit less, and move, walk, stretch, exercise whenever you can.

It may be the difference between life—and death.

Image credit: myfreeweb

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