Modern lifestyles and technology have taken much physical activity and movement out of our lives. We sit for breakfast, sit in a car to drive to work, and sit at a desk.
There's little need to get up to go to the file cabinet, because the files are all right in front of us on the screen. We push a few buttons to cook the evening meal -- or sit in a car and select a meal at the drive-through. At home, a few more buttons wash and dry the laundry. When it's time to relax, the remote control lets us change television channels without getting out of the recliner. We've engineered physical activity out of our lives, so we need to find a way to put it back.
We've become accustomed to the recommendation that adults should have a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week -- and that is good advice.
But now there is research that says it's not just the physical activity which is important. A new study suggests that sitting longer than six hours a day could increase the risk of death from all causes, particularly cardiovascular deaths. And the most interesting finding is that it does not matter how long you engage in physical activity--sitting seems to negate many of those benefits.
On average, people sit over nine hours each day. Our bodies weren't built for so much inactivity. Sitting uses nearly no energy.
Electrical activity in the legs shuts off, calorie-burning drops to one calorie per minute, and enzymes that break down fat drop 90 percent the instant the body sits down. After only a couple of hours, the good cholesterol takes a 20 percent drop. This leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease and diabetes.
In a 14-year study done by A.V. Patel, epidemiologist, 120,000 men and women were studied over 14 years. As reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, published online July 22, 2010, the results showed that compared to sitting less than three hours a day, sitting six or more hours a day:
* Increased the death rate by about 40 percent in women
* Increased the death rate by about 20 percent in men
* Increased the death rate by 94 percent in the least active women
* Increased the death rate by 48 percent in the least active men
Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor in the health services department at the University of California, Los Angeles is known for her work in developing programs to encourage people to get up and move. Dr. Yancey, an expert in the field of workplace wellness, believes that "what is good for the waistline is good for the bottom line."
Her goal is to make prolonged sitting as socially unacceptable as smoking, or driving after drinking. She suggests that for every hour that you sit to perform your job or a task, stand for at least two minutes during that hour. You burn 33 percent more calories when standing instead of sitting.
Ideas to get moving include:
* Link networked computers to printers a short walk away from work or study spaces.
* Trade a chair for a fitness ball.
* Keep resistance bands or small hand weights handy.
* Look for opportunities to stand -- swing your arms and legs and stretch.
* Deliver messages in person, rather than by phone or email.
* Use the restroom on another floor and take the stairs.
* At home, get up and move during every commercial.
* Try a standing desk -- or an adjustable desk that allows for both sitting and standing.
Dr. Deb Sellers, specialist in adult development and aging at Kansas State University, solved the problem of too much sitting with a treadmill desk. Her standing desk and treadmill motivate her to walk at least an hour each workday while taking care of email or reading.
So, if your daily routine involves sitting, be sure to take breaks to get up and move about -- it's good for your health.