Sitting has been described recently as a bad for us. How could this be so? Surely, resting our weary bodies is a good thing?
Recent research is discovering that prolonged time in our chairs can have detrimental health effects. These include increased risk of high blood sugar, elevated blood pressure, raised cholesterol and obesity. This cluster of symptoms is known as metabolic syndrome. Whether we have one or more of these symptoms, they can increase our risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and even cancer. It seems that even regular moderate exercise does not seem to have a protective effect. So, this is not about too little exercise, it’s about too much sitting.
So how much sitting is too much? Given that most of us are mainly sitting at work, spending time driving cars and having TV or screen time, the average person is probably sitting for way too long. An Australian study of 11000 people discovered that long hours of TV watching was positively associated with higher blood sugar measures. This was particularly higher if it was more than 4 hours per day. This was even observed in those subjects who did moderate to heavy exercise for 2.5 hours per week.
Another study found higher mortality risk was also observed in men who spent at least 10 hours per week in their cars and 20 watching television. The authors observed that this reinforces the importance of the detrimental effects of sitting for extended periods.
The researchers also examined subjects in work place environments. They found that breaks in sedentary (sitting) time were positively correlated with better health outcomes. So standing up after sitting for an hour, and walking to the printer, bathroom or water cooler are beneficial activities if you do them regularly.
So how do we better our health?
Here are some tips to try:
- Stand when you are talking on the phone,
- Invest in a standing desk at home (you can buy them at Officeworks!) Or even just have a high table or bench to work from.
- At work, instead of emailing a colleague, walk over to their desk and talk to them instead (standing of course!)
The benefit of standing more means that when we go to bed at night, we will actually be physically tired. Which makes for a better night’s sleep! Even just some small adjustments will make a big difference to our overall health if we make the effort.