Why Sitting is the New Smoking
It almost seems unavoidable these days. You sit driving to and from work everyday, you sit at work, you sit in meetings, you sit at home to eat and relax, you sit and sit and sit…
Why is it so bad for us? And what can we do to avoid the deleterious effects of prolonged sitting on the body and mind.
Let’s first focus on why it’s bad.
“When muscles are shortened and inactive, they become weak and tight. This causes excess pressure on the spine and the joints. Getting movement in all planes of motion, before, during and after prolonged bouts of sitting is crucial to prevent these muscles from progressively worsening over time. “ - Kyler Brown, Sports Chiropractor and Owner of Austin Sports Therapy
On average, Americans sit for about 9-10 hours a day. This could be even higher if you’re working at a desk and spend a long time driving to and from work.
There have been multiple studies that state, prolonged sitting will not only effect posture, muscle and skeletal symptoms, but it could also reduce your overall lifespan by the development of some pretty serious life-threatening diseases.
In Dr. Mercola’s article, “the dangers of sitting” he states, “[That] sitting is more lethal than second hand smoke and can increase your risk of lung cancer by 50 percent plus cause other serious illnesses like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.” (which are all in the top 10 leading causes of death in the US)
Think of it this way – when you are seated, your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and toxicity levels all rise. After 3 hours of sitting your metabolism slows, your arteries open and blood flow slows.
Sounds serious, right?
Don’t get down, the only thing you need to do is stand up to interrupt prolonged periods of sitting!
Here’s how I recommend breaking the habit of prolonged sitting:
First of all, if you have been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting for too long. If you work at an office, talk to your employer about providing a standing desk. You can also set a timer on your phone that notifies you when it’s time to stand.
After eating lunch, go for a quick 10 minute walk. This will help with digestion and keep your blood sugar and energy levels up, so you don’t experience that after lunch energy slump and make bad 3pm decisions like coffee, sweets, and empty food like chips, crackers and candy.
Also if you’re having a smaller meeting, try making it a walking meeting. It’ll be way more efficient than sitting, because you’ll both have blood freely flowing to your brain and you’ll want to make more direct suggestions and decisions.
Try Giving yourself a Standing Challenge…
Start by keeping tabs on how much you already sit a day. Then, day by day, slowly start to chop away at the number, until you’re sitting less than 3 hours a day…
That may sound unrealistic, but think of it as a lifestyle and attitude shift. Every day you move your body, you are making a conscious decision to live a longer life, pain and disease free.
One more thing, if you’re a daily exerciser that isn’t enough to grant you a pass for prolonged sitting.
Physically, you will want to keep regular movement through your muscles and joints as they recover. Standing, and light movement like walking, promotes fluidity and lubrication of the joints. Movement also sends active responders to your muscles helping them heal and grow faster, it also keeps your metabolic rate higher, promoting a better after burn after exercise. Plus! Mentally your hormone responses will stay balanced and you’ll continue to feel the effects of the after-exercise high from dopamine.
Want to know more about the harmful effects of sitting? Check out two links below to for a deeper exploration on the subject.
Check out Ben Greenfield’s podcast on "Standing v Sitting" here:
Dr Mercola is also a great resource for researching the harmful medical effects of sitting: