Sitting Disease is the new (rather unfortunate) term from the CDC for the deleterious effects of prolonged sedentary behavior. As part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of 2,286 adults, researchers at Northwestern University found that each additional hour per day spent sitting can increase disability risk by 50 percent. That in is troubling enough without their additional finding – that the increase in disability occurs no matter how much exercise they got.
Many people try to fit a half-hour walk or hour at the gym a few times a week into their desk job lifestyle. But that amount of exercise cannot undo the unhealthful impact of nine out of 14 waking hours spent in uninterrupted sitting.
What can we do?
Stand up every 10 minutes and walk around. That will break up the hunched over compression of the cardiorespiratory system and visceral organs.
Do isometric exercises while sitting – tighten and relax different muscle groups.
Climb two flights of stairs every 10 minutes.
Stand at your desk. Elevate your computer to eye height. Standing opposes gravity, and engages with slight shifts can engage stabilizer muscles and tendons and postural muscles.
Establish an exercise room at your workplace. Buy two treadmills and two exercise cycles and a set of dumbbells, plus a balancing platform. Instead of a 20-minute lunch, book your time in the exercise room, or try going there twice a day for 10-minute bouts.
Form a walking club and spent 15 minutes, twice a day, walking briskly through our neighborhood
On a day with back-to-back meetings (Sitting Disease Thursdays?), intersperse with movement breaks or stand, wiggle and wave during meetings.
Why is prolonged sitting so harmful for your body?
Lack of physical activity can cause:
- loss of 1% muscle mass every year over 50
- no generation of synovial fluid formation in the joints, leading to stiffness and aches
- decrease in osteoblast formation, leading to bone loss
- increase in abdominal body fat and increased waist circumference and obesity
- decrease in HDL-cholesterol, the scavenger of bad LDL cholesterol
- poor quality sleep
- increase in general fatigue
- associated with increase in depression
- associated with increase in dementia
- associated with increase in certain cancers
- undeniably linked to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease
Is there any good news here?
Yes. The researchers discovered that undoing the 9-12 hours of prolonged sitting a day did not require sweat-producing, arduous exercise. The negative impact could be turned around by engaging in non-fatiguing activity as much as possible. Do anything – just don’t sit.
# # #
Dr. Meg Jordan, PhD, RN, CWP, is author of HOW TO BE A HEALTH COACH, Department Chair and Professor of Integrative Health Studies M.A. Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She is editor and founder of AFAA’s American FitnessMagazine. firstname.lastname@example.org