The majority of you reading this right now are sitting down. Sure we all have to sit down at moments throughout the day, some more than others depending on their career or lifestyle, but the dangers of sitting down too long are too real to ignore. Sitting for more than 8 hours a day without any physical activity poses the same health risks as obesity or tobacco smoking. A new term called “Sitting Disease” has even emerged to describe this phenomenon. You could say that sitting is the new smoking.
You may think that simply a bit of exercise at the end of the day can address issues with prolonged sitting, but this is actually a misconception. The effects of sitting can not simply be reduced by extensive amounts of exercise.
However, there are various strategies that can be implemented to reduce the negative impact sitting has on our body. Most of these involve reducing sedentary behavior through clever bursts of physical activity throughout the day, but the real change comes from changing your mindset and creating a life of forward momentum.
Prolonged sitting will eventually kill you if you don’t make a change. I have seen it in my own family. The moment you can no longer get up and get moving is the moment the timer starts to rapidly count down. Let’s dive deeper and see what we can do about it.
How Much Do We Actually Sit?
While worldwide statistics vary, American on average spend an average of 13 hours a day sitting. The majority of this sitting occurs at work with 86 percent of workers sitting down all day every day. I know a lot of times people just complain about everyone being so lazy these days, but interestingly enough nearly 70 percent of full time workers hate sitting.
The rest of our time sitting is spent at home. We spend all day sitting at work then when we get home we are tired from all the sitting and stress from work so we sit some more. There are several activities we engage in such as watching TV, playing video games, using our smartphone, but they all add up to about 2 hours of inactivity to pile onto the day.
When you count sleep into the mix, it is amazing how inactive most of are every single day. I think most of us know it is bad for us, but I am not sure we grasp the full extent of it.
Sitting Disease is Real
History has shown us that the human body is designed to move so of course going against that biological precedent causes problems. We sit so long in modern times that a new condition known as sitting disease has emerged. What exactly will too much sitting do to your body?
First and foremost, metabolic syndrome risks are greatly increased the longer you sit. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of individual conditions that include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased body fat, and high cholesterol. All of these symptoms form the perfect storm for decreased quality of life and early death.
Besides the harmful physical effects on our body, sitting down too much can affect us mentally as well. A recent study by UCLA shown a link between a sedentary lifestyle and a thinning in the brain to regions linked to memory. In the worst cases this could be a possible cause of Aizeheimer’s disease and in best cases it could reduce your overall mental clarity and productivity.
Helpful Practices to Counteract Sitting
As mentioned before, exercise has shown to have no correlation on the harmful effects of sitting down too long. In reality the most important thing you have to do is to literally reduce the time you spend sitting each day.
One of the biggest things you can do is to walk when you are talking on the phone. I remember as a child my grandmother used to look at me crazy whenever I was on the phone because I would constantly pace back and forth throughout the house like I was following a track. It may take some getting used to but if you spend a lot of time on the phone throughout the day it could make a big difference.
If you are in the habit of watching a lot of TV, set a timer on your TV to shut off after an hour or so to remind you to get up and move around a bit before you carry on. Timers are very useful for any activity that requires long periods of sitting such as studying, paperwork, or even just browsing the phone. The more you get in the habit of getting up the more you will do it unconsciously.
If you like to read, you can try getting audio books from a service such as Amazon Audible and listen to them while taking a walk around the neighborhood or even your house.
For those with office jobs, a good time to stand up is when you are reading emails or reports. I know standing up at your desk may seem unorthodox and feel strange, but you could be a trendsetter for better health. If you have a private office or a place open to flexibility, you can even get desks designed for you work while you stand. These could be a real game changer for the entire office.
A Lifestyle of Forward Momentum
As with anything in life, real change comes from within and creating a mindset dedicated to self-care. If you really want to reduce or avoid a sedentary life then you need to create for yourself a lifestyle of forward momentum. By maintaining the willpower to perform these tips above day by day until they become habit and ingrained into your daily life you will be trapped in old routines, stagnation, and the path to sickness.
The dangers of sitting down too long need to be a constant thought in our modern society. We have become much too sedentary, but we do have the power to change it. Remember that exercise along isn’t enough, and only through an actual reduction in the amount of time sitting can make a difference.
By altering our mindset and creating a new set of daily habits, a new and healthy lifestyle of forward momentum awaits. I want everyone reading this to take a step toward that future, and I am here to help you along the way.
Please leave any comments or thoughts below on your own strategies to counteract sitting and anything else you would like to discuss on the topic. Take care everyone.