Sit Less, Live Longer


Author: Leo Akin
June, 2015


It is an irony that even as we become busier, we end up spending far too long sitting down. During our commutes, at work and while watching TV at home, we are glued to our seats most of the time. Unfortunately, sitting for too long is bad for our health. It turns out that the cumulative effect of all the time we spend sitting down can seriously impact our health and even reduce our life expectancy. That is the conclusion of a recent study that took years of data to measure the impact of sedentary life on health and mortality.

Just How Dangerous is your Sedentary Lifestyle?

The researchers in the study mentioned above noted that the average American adult spends 4 – 5 hours a day sitting down. This is rather too much. By their findings, they found that by sitting for less than 3 hours per day, the life expectancy of the study population was increased by 2 years. This is not the first or only study to conclude that a sedentary lifestyle can reduce longevity. In another study published in the British Journal of Sports, researchers found that every hour spent sitting down in front of the TV can reduce life expectancy by an average of 22 minutes. Other researchers have compared sitting down to obesity and smoking as the top risk factors for early death. While these figures are dramatic and represent a stark but inaccurate assessment of the relative risk of sedentary lifestyle on lifespan, there is no doubt that sitting down for long does have a measureable impact on life expectancy.

It is not simply the act of sitting down that is bad for your health but the inactivity it entails. By getting up, you are likely to walk around and perform other tasks that qualify as exercise. Multiple studies have proven that the inactivity represented by sitting down can significantly raise the risks of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. This is likely because a sedentary life dramatically slows down metabolism while reducing the degree of exertion needed by the body. One direct effect of such slowed metabolism is inefficient utilization of glucose which leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. It is no wonder then that diabetes is regarded as the top cause of death for those leading sedentary lives.

Making Up for A Sedentary Life

For those who have “desk jobs”, it may be impossible to completely avoid a sedentary life. However, there are ways you can counterbalance the effects of a desk job on your health. First, note that it is prolonged sitting that is dangerous. The total amount of time you spend seated matters very little as long as you take frequent breaks standing up and moving around. Therefore, learn to take short breaks when sitting down at work. By standing up, stretching and taking full breaths, you can easily increase your metabolic rate and exercise over-rested muscles.

Ideally, you should ensure that you do not remain seated for longer than 30 minutes before getting up and taking a short break. Even while seated, you can blunt the negative impacts of a sedentary life by ensuring that you sit in an upright position. By sitting in an upright position away from the chair’s back rest, you can strengthen your hip flexors and prevent your spine from sagging under the compressive weight of your upper body. Finally, you can make up for the damage done to your body by prolonged sitting through exercise. Make sure your exercise regimen challenges the muscles in the abdomen, lower back, hips and thighs. In conclusion deciding to sit less is very well one of the best New Year health resolutions you can make.


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