Have you heard about a new disease that affects almost half of Americans and is lethal if it goes unchecked? It’s called “sitting disease.” It’s real and it’s the new smoking.
The Chair as Enemy
Sitting is an example of a “sedentary” behavior. Either at work or at home as a couch potato, it is considered a “low fitness” activity. Some might argue that it should not even be considered an “activity” given how unfit it is for you. So, why is screen-watching so bad for you?
It’s because several recent studies on sitting, conducted in America and elsewhere, have all observed similar results. People who sit a lot have 50% higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. And, conversely, if people who sit a lot also take frequent small breaks like standing up to stretch or walk down the hall, they have smaller waists and improved sugar and fat metabolism than those who don’t take breaks. Could this explain the obesity epidemic in our country? Many think it does, and in both children and adults.
Another interesting finding from these studies is that the risk of disease with sedentary lifestyles is unrelated to overall exercise levels. The amount of time you spend sitting and the amount of time you exercise each have their own separate risk for heart disease. So, the cure for too much sitting isn’t more exercise, it’s less sitting.
Facts about Standing
What if you just stand up more? Could this help? You bet and here’s why:
- There are roughly 639 muscles in the human body. 300 of them are used for balance when you stand still. Far fewer are needed to sit.
- Standing instead of sitting for 4 hours daily burns an extra 200 calories a day
- Standing improves your posture and reduces aches and stiffness.
- By using large muscle groups, standing improves fat and sugar metabolism
- And walking is even better than standing for overall health
The Cure for Sitting Disease
The good news is that this disease is curable and curing it can add years to your life.You know what to do at home: spend less time sitting in front of a screen, whether TV or computer. At work, here are some useful suggestions:
- Get up more often throughout the day
- Walk to talk to your colleague down the hall, don’t email
- Hold walking staff meetings
- Take a walk during your lunch break
- Park farther away in the parking lot
- Use ergonomically designed, elevated desks
- Use slow treadmill-based desks
At this point, I’m afraid that I have to disagree with Albert Einstein when he said: “A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy.”