Yes, it’s a real thing! Here’s how to make sure you’re not at risk for sitting disease.
Even 30 minutes of time at the gym a day may still not be enough to combat the negative effects sitting has on your health.
The word “sedentary” comes from the Latin root “sedere,” or “to sit.” A growing body of research suggests that people who spend hours with little movement – even if they go to the gym regularly – are essentially “sedentary” most of the time and are at greater risk for everything from obesity and depression to diabetes and heart disease.
Even if you exercise regularly and swim, walk or jog an hour a day, it still may not be enough to cancel out the effects sitting for hours on end has on your health.
How sedentary are we?
Americans spend an average of 13 hours sitting per day and 8 hours sleeping a day. In the other three hours that are left, only 31 percent of us go to the gym or invest more than $10 per month staying active.
However, 74 percent of us believe that sitting too much is bad for us and 96 percent of us would be willing to stand more to improve our health. That means that we don’t want to be sitting still all day and we know that it’s bad for us, but we don’t feel we have any other options.
If you feel this way, too, you’re not alone!
How can you be at risk for sitting disease if you exercise regularly?
But what about those of us that do take yoga, get outside and run and make it to the gym a few times a week?
It turns out that even a daily run won’t fully cancel out the negative effects of sitting for hours on end.
Here’s an example. Exercise physiologists use a number called MET, or Metabolic Equivalent, to measure the intensity of exercise. When we are resting, physiologists consider our MET to be approximately 1. When we are walking moderately, our MET is about 3 or 4, and when we are jogging or running, our MET is about 8.
The American Heart Association currently recommends getting about 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. If we are awake for about 16 hours a day, that means that if we get the 30 minutes they recommend (which 80 percent of us don’t), we are still only spending 3 percent of our day in an active state. Here’s why that matters:
Why prevent sitting disease?
- Our bodies naturally have a negative biochemical reaction after long, interrupted stretches of activity. This causes them to be less efficient at breaking down blood sugar and cholesterol. After four hours of sitting, our bodies start to send signals to shut down the regulation of glucose and fat.
- When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins which are proven to invoke positive “highs” and some studies suggest are almost as effective as morphine is at decreasing depression. However, when we don’t move for several hours, these benefits wear off, leaving us feeling down, unfocused and unmotivated.
- Studies show that regardless of exercise, people who spend more time inactive have a notably higher risk of not just heart disease and diabetes, but also cancer and are more likely to die prematurely.
However, there is some good news! Walking just two minutes out of every 60 you spend sitting could stop sitting disease in its tracks, significantly improve your health, and add years to your life.
In general, researchers have found that “a lot of little adds up to a lot.”
Prevent sitting disease by moving more frequently
Moving more frequently can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and premature death. If that doesn’t motivate you to get moving, here are a few more reasons to incorporate more frequent movement throughout your day:
- You burn 30 percent more calories standing than you burn sitting.
- Researchers at NASA have found that 32 “transitions” a day helps maintain healthy blood pressure.
- In addition to physiological benefits, moving more throughout your day can have social benefits, too.
Here are some ways you can prevent sitting disease by moving more frequently:
In your home
- Use the 20-8-2 rule when you’re on the phone: For every 20 minutes, stand for 8 and move for 2.
- Rather than setting aside hours to clean on one day, do one cleaning task every hour you are home.
- Not quite ready to kick your TV habit? Do yoga, squats or sit ups while you’re watching TV or the news.
- Do your yard word yourself.
- Cook. Spending time standing and moving around the kitchen, rather than sitting at a table at a restaurant, can help you increase your movement.
Out and about
- Park in the back of the parking lot.
- Get in the longest line at the supermarket.
- Bike or jog while running errands, rather than driving.
- Take the stairs.
- Go on active dates.
At the office
- Hold walking meetings
- Get up and visit a friend’s desk rather than calling or emailing them
- Visit the restroom at the other end of the building.
- Take a walk during lunch.
- Use a standing desk.
- Use the printer or copier that is farthest away from your desk.
Tap into technology
- Use a step tracker, but leave it off while you’re at the gym.
- Set an alarm that reminds you when it’s time to get up and move.
- Use an app that will help you remember to and find ways to move – even when you’re in the office or in a meeting.
Ready to move more?
Don’t forget to stay hydrated while you are on the move! Join us over at Healthy Human and #LiveLifeHealthy! We are more than a brand. We are a lifestyle. Jumpstart your fitness efforts by stocking up on our stainless steel, BPA-free water bottles.
What do you think?
Did you try these hacks this week? Let us know how it went in the comments below!