Why our bodies simply can’t stand sitting down
By now you’ve probably heard it a hundred times—sitting all day is not doing us any favors. In fact, researchers have concluded that sitting for long periods of time can be linked to a number of different health concerns. And while your average college student probably won’t be sitting as much as someone with a nine-to-five desk job, we still do an awful lot of sitting (as anyone who has found themselves living in the library during finals can attest to).
On average, humans now spend about 9.3 hours per day sitting. That’s more than ever, and it’s all thanks to the advent of televisions, computers and automobiles. The thing is, we simply weren’t designed to spend this much time on our rumps. You don’t have to look very far to find a few reasons why:
1) When you sit, an enzyme known as lipoprotein lipase sees a decrease in activity. This disables your body from burning fat as easily. In addition, a long sit will cause your blood to flow more sluggishly, allowing fatty acids to clog the heart. It’s no coincidence that obese people sit 2.5 more hours per day than thin people.
2) Without significant movement, your brain doesn’t get the fresh blood and oxygen that it normally would. When you sit, your brain function slows, causing you to be less productive and on top of your game.
3) Sitting for a long time slows blood circulation and causes fluid to pool in your legs. If that doesn’t sound gross, I’m not sure what will. On top of that, the electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off the moment you sit down.
4) Studies have shown that sitting can cause a greater risk of colon, breast and endometrial cancers. According to an article on The Washington Post, “The reason is unclear, but one theory is that excess insulin encourages cell growth. Another is that regular movement boosts natural antioxidants that kill cell-damaging — and potentially cancer-causing — free radicals.”
5) Insulin becomes 24% less effective when you sit, leading to a higher risk of diabetes. After two hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops 20%.
6) After three hours of watching TV per day, every extra hour leads to an 11% higher death risk. At three hours, though, those who exercise are just as fat as those who don’t. Also, every hour of television watched after age 25 leads to a 22-minute reduction in life expectancy.
There’s a reason sitting is being called “the new smoking.” But what is there to be done about it?
Standing desks can be somewhat pricey, but you always have the option to build your own for significantly less. (Plus, everyone knows standing desks are all the rage these days.) The main idea is that you want your keyboard or laptop set up so that your arms are at a ninety degree angle to the rest of your body. If possible, your screen should be at eye level (you’ll need an auxiliary keyboard and mouse if you’re using a laptop) and about 20 to 28 inches from your eyes.
Another option is to do short exercises throughout the day. Hardcore gym enthusiasts will probably scoff at calling these “exercises,” but anything you can do to get yourself up and out of that seat will help. It’s recommended that you stand up at least for two minutes every hour. Take a walk around, eat your lunch standing, or find ways to sit more actively.
Whatever method you find yourself using, you can bet you’ll find yourself feeling healthier, happier, and more productive throughout the day. All it takes is to get out of your chair and get moving.