The phrase run for your life may not be too far off for us in modern society. We aren’t being chased by giant lizards or apes that are trying to kill us, but something just as dangerous is coming for you, and it will end your life if you let it. That something is sitting. I made it sound very dramatic I know, but think about it for a moment; sitting very well could be the perfect killer. WHY? 1) it’s something that you’re familiar with and do everyday 2) it is sooooo comfortable; who really wants to stand around all day anyway? 3) it’s associated with many of our favorite activities. Most people don’t consider sports one of their favorite things in the world, but the latest season of Stranger Things? Definitely! And how are they watching it? On a couch!!! It’s almost diabolical how simple and easy it is for the couch to lure us in, but stick with me and we’ll find out how to beat the seat and its hazardous effects.
Why sitting is bad for you:
– it hurts your heart: in a study that conducted on transit drivers vs transit users it was found that transit users were twice more likely to develop heart disease than the conductors who generally stood
– you don’t need cigarettes or fast food to help in shortening your life, SITTING is one of the great modern culprits behind it. You already know that the world we live in is literally designed to provide comfort, not even leisure, just comfort. We go to work everyday, a comfy rolling chair is waiting for us. Maybe stop at Starbucks on our way back home, a restful lounge is waiting for us to spend our time updating social media and sending emails. We come home and you guessed it: The most comfortable seat of all “the lazy-boy” is ready with our booty’s name stamped in it ready to serve as a personal throne for watching the newest Netflix series or YoutubeTV after a “long, tiring day”. If someone were to do the math on how many ours out of the day that above example was and multiply that by at least five, that would be A LOT of hours reclining. For an activity that has the potential to kill us, that is a lot of hours devoted to speeding up that process.
And apparently sitting is killing us, a lot of us. According to Brazilian researchers who analyzed information from 54 different countries linked sitting more than three hours a day to 3.8 percent of deaths from all causes.
Sitting itself may have an adverse effect on how your body processes insulin, which in turn makes you more likely to have diabetes and other diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, even strokes…Yikes. If you add aging into the mix, too much sitting WILL put skeletal and muscular deterioration on the horizon. The effects of aging can be slowed, but if the majority of your time is spent inactive your muscle, tissue and bones will begin to atrophy and shed itself, leading to symptoms like osteoporosis. Sitting may seem nice right now, but 20, 30, even 40 years down the road it’s going to make even the simplest task like reaching for cereal or going to the bathroom seem like a chore.
It’s amazing how the body reacts when it is out of alignment with its intended function. The body is designed for movement, for power, to run, to leap tall buildings in a single bound!! But there is a cause and effect of activity (or inactivity like extended sitting) that goes against the body’s purpose. An obvious effect is weight gain; a direct result when the body has no outlet to burn the stored fat build up. Another effect (and I really hope you never have to deal with this one) could be Varicose veins. The aren’t serious or life-threatening, but boy are they ugly. After long periods of pressure placed on veins from extended sitting pools of blood begin to develop in localized spots. This caused the veins to swell, twist and bulge beneath the skin in an unnatural way which may lead to aches. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is another possibility when it comes to blood clotting. In most cases it can be quite painful. It could get even worse if the clot breaks free and finds a home in your lungs. Many people notice swelling and pain, but others may not notice any symptoms
You may be reading this and be just about ready to brush this all off. You may be thinking “well what are we supposed to do? Sitting is just a part of everyday life; even if we shaved a little time off we would still spend the majority of our time sitting, so what will really change?”
I don’t blame you if you were to think like that. Even as someone who considers himself very physically active and fit, I still have to wonder if the time I spend on my feet really is making a difference in keeping me alive when I STILL spend the majority of my time sitting.
But my friends, something has got to give. The cold hard truth is that sitting, and its root inactivity, is a huge dilemma in this country and it is one that is killing us. It’s a topic that can’t be denied when $117 Billion in healthcare cost are spent on issues associated with physical inactivity. It can’t be swept under the rug when nearly 80 percent of us don’t meet even the minimum of the government’s physical activity recommendations for aerobic or muscle strengthening. And you can’t turn a blind eye when one of our own states two years ago had nearly one third of it’s adult population living inactive lives, which as you’ve learned is a slow, indirect death sentence.
When a machine or tool is being used the wrong way what usually happens? It starts to break down and malfunction. Or even if a tool is NOT USED, like a car for example; if you don’t start the car up or take it in for check-ups and oil changes while it just sits around year in and year out, it’s not going to work when you need it. The breaks might get shot, the car battery will die, and the engine could even start acting up. The human body is no different. If you don’t continually use, check up on, and repair it, your body will shut down; and just like a car inactivity will mess up and affect all of your functioning parts
You may become at risk of greater hormonal imbalances, especially if you’re a man. When the body starts storing fat due to inactivity it will also produce more estrogen, the major hormone produced by women, which will throw off the presence of testosterone.
The objective here is to live longer, so how do we escape the clutches of the silent killer known as inactivity?
EXERCISE CAN HELP, BUT IT ISN’T THE ANSWER
Did you know that the negative and deadly consequences of sitting begin after sitting up to 6 to 8 hours a day? That is scary considering most of us spend 6 to 8 hours just at work sitting down!! That’s not even including what we do after-hours. To prove my point I bet you’re sitting down reading this post, and you were probably doing the same an hour ago, maybe a hour before that.
So what can be done to combat this? Well one method that has been suggested for ages; exercise. Surprised right? There is good reason for this to be sure, even moderate, consistent exercise has been shown to have positive effects in some of the most dire cases, even cancer. It’s been shown to:
– prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening heart muscles
– lowering blood pressure
– raising high density lipoproteins (aka good cholesterol)
– lowering low-density lipoprotein (aka bad cholesterol)
– improving blood flow etc.
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before and by the sound of it exercise is the cure-all for everything. The question then is why isn’t exercise the answer to our sitting problem? Researchers have found that it requires at least an hour of intense exercise to offset the negative effects of sitting for 6-7 hours. This is good news, but it’s definitely not the best news considering
1) We probably spend more than 6-7 hours sitting, which means it would require more, maybe twice,
the time in the gym doing high intensity training.
2) Most people can’t or aren’t willing to find an extra two hours in their day to exercise
3) Most people don’t have the stomach for high intensity exercise
So exercise is technically a solution and not a solution; it does offer a ray of hope in combating the affects of sedentary living, but for most of us it isn’t a “practical” solution. It would take a lot of determination and discipline to stay in the gym consistently just to fight something that we would rather do in the first place (sit down).
If exercise isn’t the top solution, what other hope is there? Exercise is pretty much the ultimate form of physical activity and if that won’t do the job than we might as well give up right? Well fortunately there is a way to beat this, and it’s a lot simpler than you may think
THE ANSWER IS MOVEMENT INTERVALS
Yep that’s right; it’s not grinding it out on the treadmill for hours, it’s not picking up heavy things and putting them down, no math required, just incorporating breaks of movement can help improve your health and help you live longer. Sounds too good to be true? Well there have been resent studies to back up this simple solution and the results seem promising
In a study conducted on 8000 black and white volunteers to measure the connection between sedentary time and all causes of mortality, researchers found that on average most of the adults spent 12.3 hours (out of a 16-hour waking day) in a sedentary behavior, primarily sitting. And get this: the total sitting time was found to correlate highly with all causes of mortality, but the adults who interrupted sedentary time with movement at least every 30 minutes had the lowest mortality risk.
It gets better folks: There was a study to determine if interrupting prolonged sitting with brief bouts of light intensity walks or basic resistance activities could improve risk markers in adults with type 2 diabetes. Twenty-four men and women were selected, all of them overweight/ obese, inactive and with type 2 diabetes. The volunteers completed three 8-hour sessions, randomized and separated by 6-14 days. The difference in the amount of days was used to wash out the influence of insulin and were asked not to exercise or drink coffee 48 hours before the trial-session testing.
Both activity-break sessions significantly lowered blood glucose levels compared to the control session, which means that the cells of the volunteers were using glucose for energy- a very positive sign. Other great signs:
– Insulin levels were significantly lower for those in the activity-break session
– There were noticeably lower effects on C-peptide protein, a marker for insulin production
– Blood triglyceride levels were noticeably lower in the resistance training activity-break session
This is great news because the volunteers in the tests could very well represent the average American; older, sedentary adults who have or are at risk for type two diabetes. Instead of having to adhere to the standard exercise prescription, the average American now has a much more practical option that is easy to implement while producing the positive health benefits needed to fight the effects of inactivity.
The verdict is in; for every 30 minutes of sitting, get 3 minutes of activity (simple walking or basic resistance exercises or a combination of both) to improve metabolic factors and your overall health.
You don’t have to just simply walk either, you can get creative with how you do the intervals to add a level of variety. Like stated before there is even the option of throwing a little resistance training into the mix, whatever works for you. The important thing; if you’re going to apply this new system into your life, it’s going to take a great amount of consistency and determination to get results. When you do the math, you would have to do these intervals roughly 24 times (assuming the average American spends about 12 hours sitting). That is a lot to stay on-top of for benefits you can’t see or feel, but it will definitely help you in the long run.
EXAMPLE RESISTANCE EXERCISES
|1. circuit a||half squats, knee raises, heel raises, marches
|2. circuit b||knee raises, marches, half squats, heel raises
|3. circuit c||marches, half squats, heel raises, knee raises
|4. circuit d||heel raises, marches, knee raises, half squats
|5. circuit e||marches, knee raises, half squats, heel raises
From research conducted 2 circuits of 10 movements performed slowly take up the 3 minute period pretty well
EXAMPLE INTERVAL WALKS
|interval||brisk walk||recovery walk||reps|
|1. 30/30||30 seconds||30 seconds||3|
|2. 15/15||15 seconds||15 seconds||6|
|3. 45/45||45 seconds||45 seconds||2|
|4. 8/12||8 seconds||12 seconds||9|
WRAPPING IT UP
Prolonged sedentary behavior (i.e. sitting) comes with the territory of living in a modern world. I would be kidding myself if I told you to find ways to “give up sitting” because it’s just not realistic anymore, but there are ways to reduce it, and that ultimately is the goal. If you can find ways to move more and on a consistent basis, you will not only help keep yourself feeling better but in a way literally save your life. To incorporate interval walking/training, look for apps that help time the movement periods so that you can spend the accurate time moving, and to limit any excuses for not doing it. Take action and stay active.