Why Sitting Is Bad For You

You’ve heard it all before: Move around, keep active, get your daily doses of exercise.  However, according to new studies, even you practice yoga or do any other type of exercise for 30 minutes every day, it’s still not enough to avoid the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time.

In fact, if you are over the age of 25 and watch TV for more than two hours a day, every hour you sit idly watching TV may reduce your life expectancy by 21.8 minutes! In comparison, each cigarette smoked “only” reduces life expectancy by 11 minutes.

This was one of the findings of a recent study by Australian researchers, as reported by the New York Times.  This stunning news came from a carefully calculated study where TV watching was chosen as an easily reportable measurement of sedentary lifestyle.  The Australians were asked how many hours a day they watched TV, and their age, weight, smoking habits, diet, exercise and other variables were all adjusted for using statistical analysis.  In 2008, Australians watched a total 2.8 billion hours of Television.   Even with a good habit of daily exercise, the researchers calculated that watching TV for more than two hours a day is risky.

“Many of us in modern society have jobs which involve sitting at a computer all day,” says Dr. Emma Wilmot, a research fellow at the University of Leicester in England, who led the study. “We might convince ourselves that we are not at risk of disease because we manage the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day.” But, she says, we “are still at risk if we sit all day.”

If you sum up the results of several studies on prolonged sitting, the picture gets even grimmer. According to a recent research review of 18 studies published in the Diabetalogia, people who spend the most time sitting, either at work or watching TV, had “a 112 percent increase in their relative risk of developing diabetes; a 147 percent increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease; and a 49 percent greater risk of dying prematurely — even if they regularly exercised.”

But why is sitting so detrimental to our health? According to the article, one explanation may be that when large muscles, like those of the legs and arms, are inactive, they need less fuel. This in turn causes blood sugar levels to rise, increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.  But researchers admit that all the reasons why sitting is so bad for health are not yet fully understood.

What can you do to minimize the bad effects of sitting all day?  First of all, cut down on TV watching time, and keep it at no more than two hours a day, ideally less.  Secondly, keep up that daily exercise routine.  It won’t counteract too many hours of TV, but it does positively benefit health, mood and weight.  Last, but not least, find ways to move a little at work.  Put the trash basket on the other side of the room.  Take your breaks standing up, have meetings standing up, stand up and walk around during phone calls.  And, find ways to stay active when watching TV: jump on a trampoline, do some simple yoga asana stretches, work on improving your posture by standing with your back and head against a wall, and in other ways find ways to stay active and moving.

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