We all know that we should be more active, but is it sitting down for too long that is causing us some serious health problems?
Research suggests that staying seated for too long is bad for your health, no matter how much exercise you do.
Sitting down for too long is thought to slow down your metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.
A large proportion of adults spend over seven hours a day sitting down or lying. This could include but isn’t restricted to: watching television, using a computer, reading, doing work, travelling by car, bus or train.
There are some scary statistics to go with this too. One of the largest pieces of research on the subject looked at close to 800,000 people. The research found that compared to those who sat the least, people who sat the longest had a:
112% increased risk of diabetes
147% increase in cardiovascular events
90% increase in death cause by cardiovascular events
49% increase in death from any cause.
How much sitting is too much?
There is a lot of advice out there about how long you should be sat down for each day, but to reduce our risk of health problems, we should be exercising regularly. It is recommended that we should exercise at least 150 minutes each week. The more time you spend sitting down, the more harmful it will be to your overall health.
There are however limiting factors with this research. Although we know that living a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous, it doesn’t necessarily take into account contributing factors like alcohol consumption, smoking and diet.
The NHS suggests that adults aged 19-64 are advised to try and sit down less throughout the day, including at work, whilst travelling and when at home.
Some tips they’ve suggested to reduce the amount of time you sit down include:
Standing on the train / bus
Take the stairs / walk up escalators
Set yourself a reminder to get up every 30 minutes to an hour.
Alternate working while seated with standing
Stand or walk around while on the phone
Take a walk break every time you get a coffee or a tea
Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing them
Try to swap some time in front of the television with more active tasks or hobbies.
If your job means that you sit down at a desk for long periods of time each day, then why not try some exercises. Try the leg raise: sit in your chair, extend one leg out in front and hold. Raise it as high as possible before holding. You should then repeat, alternating legs about 15 times.
Movement in general is important. The muscle activity needed for standing and other movements will trigger processes related to breaking down sugars and fats. If you sit for long periods of time then these processes stall, and health risks are likely to increase.
We’re in control of how much time we spend sitting down. These stats speak for themselves. Why not take every opportunity you can to do that little bit more exercise in your day to day life. Don’t take your car for short trips, take the stairs more or even reduce time watching the television. It could be a lifesaver!
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