Spend more time sitting than standing? Yeah, join the club. It’s important to keep moving, but the reality is, the demands of your everyday life often stand in the way. Being hunched over your desk for hours on end is no better than spending your evenings slouched on the couch in front of the TV, but you probably already knew this.
That sitting isn’t good for your health is nothing new, and we’re continuing to find even more ill effects. In fact, research shows sitting for more than three hours a day leads to almost 4% of all deaths. While that may not sound too significant, it is when you consider sitting is such a low-risk activity. After all, it’s not like you’re jumping out of a plane or diving off a cliff.
Now, back to the research. Between driving to and from work, sitting in an hour-long meeting, and relaxing on the couch for a few shows at night (and that’s not even factoring in the likelihood you spend several more hours sitting every day, even if you do have one of those fancy standing desks), it’s easy to accumulate a lot of sitting time. Sure, there are ways to combat the negative effects of your sedentary life, but you may be surprised to hear even exercise might not be enough.
Exercise won’t totally negate the negative effects of prolonged sitting
Say what? Yes, it’s a bold claim, but there’s evidence to back it up. According to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, prolonged sedentary behavior increases your risk of developing a disease or a condition that will lead to an early death, even if you work out on a consistent basis. And sedentary behavior doesn’t just mean sitting, per se. Even though sitting is the most prevalent form of inactivity, U.S. News & World Report says any prolonged activity that requires very little energy is a form of sedentary behavior.
To understand just how all this sedentary stuff really works, consider it in a scientific manner. The amount of energy you expend in a given activity is measured using a number called metabolic equivalent of task (MET). And according to the story in U.S. News & World Report, “One MET refers to our resting metabolic rate, or baseline. Moderate walking equals three to four METS, while running equals about eight METS.” So, care to venture a guess as to what sedentary activities expend? It turns out to be less than 1.5 METs. Though not surprising, it’s good to keep that number in mind. When you look at it in black and white terms, it’s crystal clear your sedentary life is slowly, but surely, killing you.
Yikes. That’s some pretty heavy stuff. But don’t go giving up on exercise just yet. Despite the fact the amount of sitting you do in a day typically outweighs the benefits you get from exercise, there’s still hope. As CNN reminds us, “the more you exercise, the lower the impact of sedentary behavior.” So don’t take this information as a suggestion to throw in the gym towel. Instead, use it to increase your physical activity even more to strike a balance between time spent sitting and time spent moving.
Key factors in how sitting can eventually lead to death
To say the very act of sitting alone will kill you is a bit preposterous, isn’t it? But we know the lack of physical activity, poor posture, and sheer loss of brainpower are all par for the course when seated. Still more research shows sedentary people are at a greater risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. U.S. News & World Report shares more about that last point, saying, “Sitting for too long has also been shown to increase the amount of calcium and fatty buildup inside the heart’s arteries — a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes.”
Swearing off sitting altogether isn’t a realistic option, but you’d be wise to be mindful of how long you go without moving because the storm only seems to be getting worse. The good news? You have the knowledge, so now it’s time to do something about it.