How sitting is actually killing you
Unless you are currently riding on an escalator, packed into a rush-hour subway or lining up in another interminable queue at the DMV, there is a strong probability that you are seated as you read this article. I mean, there is a good chance that nowadays you are doing more sitting than ever before. From spending a whole day seated at work, on your commute to and fro, and crowning it all with a scintillating evening watching your favorite TV program over a refreshing glass of wine or fruit juice.
Honestly speaking, I can’t blame you because sitting feels great, it is relaxing comfort and most of all restful. Unfortunately, the amount of time you snugly spend perched on your couch or chair could be methodically drawing you closer and closer to your death bed. But, how?
What happens when you sit?
Before we can get to how sitting is killing you, it is important that you understand what happens to your body when you are seated. Basically, the moment you sit on that chair to build a brighter future, 3 dark things happen.
• The number of calories your body is able to burn drops to 1 per minute as opposed to the medically recommended 3-10 per minute while exercising.
• The production of enzymes that break down fat drops by a whopping 90 percent.
• Electrical activity and impulses on your leg muscles cease to function almost completely.
And that’s not the end of it.
After every 2 hours you are seated, your good cholesterol levels diminish by a significant 20 percent. After 24 hours, the body’s capacity to produce insulin drops by an alarming 24 percent exposing you to a high risk of developing diabetes. When all these activities combine, your body inevitably becomes weak, affecting you in the following ways.
1. Increases the risk of contracting chronic diseases
A survey conducted on 63,000 middle-aged Australian men found out that those who sat for over 4 hours in 24 hours were more likely to develop chronic diseases such as cancer, heart complications, blood pressure, and diabetes.
The more time the participants spent on chairs and couches, the higher their risk of getting these diseases regardless of their BMI or how much they exercised. The study further established that those who spent more than 6 hours in a day seated were especially susceptible to developing diabetes a finding that was echoed by other studies.
2. Reduced life expectancy
According to a study conducted and published by WSJ, reducing excessive sitting by at least 3 hours a day has the potential to increase your life expectancy by 2 hours. Additionally, the study also established that minimizing the time spent watching TV for two hours a day can further bolster your expectancy by 1.4 years.
In comparison, smoking has been found to minimize the life expectancy of men by 2 years and that of women by 1.8 years. So, if you would like to live your entire lifetime, it appears that you should reduce the time spent on that couch or chair, regardless of how comfortable it is.
3. Increases the risk of Kidney disease
If you thought that kidney diseases are reserved for heavy drinkers and people who are genetically susceptible, you will be surprised that you could also be in the loop even if there is no history of such diseases in your family or you are religiously following a healthy diet.
An analysis of a self-reported survey involving over 6000 participants between the age of 40 and 75 found out that even with a normal body mass index and a healthy diet, people who sat for prolonged periods of time had a higher risk of developing chronic kidney diseases.
The effect was particularly profound in women. However, after cutting the amount of time spent seated, the risk reduced by 30% and 15% in men. Bearing this in mind, spending a few minutes every hour on standing desks could help you reduce your sitting time and avert the risk of developing the dreaded kidney complications.
4. Poor mental health
As a matter of fact, sitting for too long is bad for your brain and mind too. If still not convinced, a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, sought to understand the relationship between mental wellness and sedentary behavior using a workplace health promotion project in the United Kingdom and found out that long periods of non-occupational sitting time such as driving, using a computer or watching TV negatively impacted the mental health of participants.
5. Obesity and metabolic syndrome
An obesity study conducted in 2009 found that overweight people sit 2.5 times more hours than people with a healthy body mass index. This can be attributed to the fact that sitting for prolonged periods of time is associated with metabolic syndrome and a combination of several other complications such as low levels of good cholesterol, high blood pressure, high levels of hyperglycemia or triglyceride and abdominal obesity. Put together, these issues increase the risk of developing serious medical diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart diseases.
On this note, a review study published in PLOS ONE established that individuals with a more sedentary life were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. Back in 2005, another group of researchers hypothesized that minimizing TV and computer usage to one hour per day in favor of outdoor activities has the potential to reduce the susceptibility of adult metabolic syndrome by between 30 to 35%.
6. Death from colorectal cancer
Even if you have already been diagnosed with cancer, sitting for prolonged periods of time could be what will kill you. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology established that before and after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, spending your time seated increases your chances of dying prematurely. To make this conclusion, researchers tracked the self-reported habits of 2000 people with colorectal cancer for 16 years.
They also found out that those who were more physically active had a 28% lower risk of dying compared to those who spent most of their time seated. Patients who spent 6 hours or more seated also had a 36% higher risk of dying as opposed to those who sat 3 hours in a day.
Even though these statistics and findings might be dumbfounding to many of us, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. The secret here is to avoid a sedentary life. And even if your work demands that you be seated for a long time, remember your health comes first. The rule of the thumb is, “Work better live healthier”