The People Pro® Blog

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

By Barbara Bartlein, RN, MSW

Sitting around? Better get moving. Sitting for excessively long periods of time is a risk factor for early death, a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found. There is a direct correlation between time spent sitting and your risk of early mortality of any cause, according to researchers, based on a study of nearly 8,000 deaths.

Researchers at Columbia, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center found that sedentary behavior, on average, accounted for about 12.3 hours of an average 16 hour waking day. For many people, we become more sedentary as we age when physical and mental function declines.

As total sedentary time increased, so did early death by any cause, research demonstrated. Risk of death grew with total sitting time and sitting stretch duration, no matter the age, sex, race, body mass index or weight.  People who frequently sat for more than 90 minutes at a stretch had a nearly two-fold greater risk of death than those who almost always sat for less than 90 minutes at a stretch.

Researchers are not clear why sedentary behavior impacts our health in negative ways. Some scientists theorize that more sitting leads to reductions in insulin sensitivity while other believe that net calorie expenditures decline as sitting increases. What is clear, however, is that the human body needs movement and exercise.

We have evolved to exercise and we need it. The more activity you have, the more you want to do. Lethargy has the opposite effect; the more you sit, the harder it is to get going. The problem is that our culture is built on inactivity; from the workplace where we sit all day, to transportation with lack of sidewalks and bike lanes. The way we work and commute is a public health issue.

The answers aren’t a mystery. As we restore America’s crumbling infrastructure, we need to invest in better public transportation, sidewalks, bike lanes, and walking paths. There needs to be opportunities in the workplace to walk and exercise. Some things you can do:

Get a standing desk. There are a number of companies that sell a stand to elevate the computer and other equipment so you can stand while you work. Keeping on your feet most of the day increases blood flow, activity and steps.

Walk every hour. Get up and move around at least every hour, even if it just means standing at your desk.

NEVER eat lunch at your desk. Many folks brag how they work through their lunch. No impressed. They would be more productive if they took a break and moved around to return to work refreshed.

Try to do 10,000 steps per day. You can use the apps on your phone or get one of the many products out to measure your steps. It give you a goal to work for each day.

Get moving. You will feel better and be more productive.

The People Pro 
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