The dangers of sitting: Why sitting is the new smoking

Living a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to your health. The less sitting or lying down you do during the day, the better your chances for living a healthy life. If you stand or move around during the day, you have a lower risk of early death than if you sit at a desk. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you have a higher chance of being overweight, developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease, and experiencing depression and anxiety.

How does a sedentary lifestyle affect your body?

Weight

Moving your muscles helps your body digest the fats and sugars you eat. If you spend a lot of time sitting, digestion is not as efficient, so you retain those fats and sugars as fat in your body. Even if you exercise but spend a large amount of time sitting, you are still risking health problems, such as metabolic syndrome. The latest research suggests you need 60-75 minutes per day of moderate-intensity activity to combat the dangers of excessive sitting. Heart disease. Sitting for long periods has been linked to heart disease. One study found that men who watch more than 23 hours of television a week have a 64 per cent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than men who only watch 11 hours of television a week.

Diabetes

Studies have shown that even five days lying in bed can lead to increased insulin resistance in your body. Research suggests that people who spend more time sitting have a 112 per cent higher risk of diabetes.

Hips and back

Your hips and back will not support you as well if you sit for long periods. Sitting for long periods can also cause problems with your back, especially if you consistently sit with poor posture or don’t use an ergonomically designed chair or work station. Poor posture may also cause poor spine health such as compression in the discs in your spine, leading to premature degeneration,which can be very painful.

Stiff neck and shoulders

If you spend your time hunched over a computer keyboard, this can lead to pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders.

Cancer

Emerging studies suggest the dangers of sitting include increasing your chances of developing some types of cancer, including lung, uterine, and colon cancers. The reason behind this is not yet known.

How sedentary are we?

Physical inactivity contributes to over three million preventable deaths worldwide each year (that’s six per cent of all deaths). It is the fourth leading cause of death due to non-communicable diseases.. It’s also the cause of 21–25 percent of breast and colon cancers, 27 per cent of diabetes cases, and around 30 percent of ischemic heart disease.

How can you save your health from the dangers of sitting?

Dr. Vinay Verma, MD (Internal Medicine) gives some simple ideas to keep you moving while you’re at home:    

When you’re tidying up, put items away in small trips rather than taking it all together.

Set the timer on your television to turn off an hour earlier than usual to remind you to get up and move.

Walk around when you’re on the phone.

Stand up and do some ironing during your favorite television shows.

Rather than sitting down to read, listen to recorded books while you walk, clean, or work in the garden.

If you work in an office:

Stand up while you read emails or reports.

Walkover and talk to your colleagues instead of emailing them.

Take the stairs instead of the lift.

Use the speakerphone for conference calls and walk around the room during the calls.

Stand on public transport, or get off one stop early and walk to your destination.

Walk or cycle, and leave the car at home.

Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, or at least walk up the escalator.

Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way.

Park further away from wherever you’re going and walk the rest of the way.

Move your rubbish bin away from your desk so you have to get up to throw anything away.

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