Sitting Keeps You Down

Remember when you were in grade school and the teacher would say, “Sit down?”  I don’t know about you, but they said it a lot to me.  They told me to stop wiggling and sit still too.  Well, I knew that I was justified in my fidgeting and my desire to run around the classroom.  It turns out that sitting all day is bad for you.  So to all my teachers, “I told you so.” 

All kidding aside, health experts along with different sitting studies are telling us that sitting is bad for our health. A 2012 study shows that people spent an average of 64 hours a week sitting.  Whether you sit that long or only six hours per day, all kinds of bad things happen including a rise in premature death, cardiovascular disease, and other deadly and chronic diseases.  Basically your circulation slows, you burn less fat, you immobilize major muscles, and a key gene in fighting cardiovascular disease (LPP1), that helps prevent blood clotting and inflammation, is suppressed.  As if that wasn’t enough, depression, especially in women, increases as the reduced circulation causes fewer feel-good hormones to reach the brain.  People who sit more are more prone to cancer, diabetes, increased blood pressure, obesity and metabolic syndrome.

In the American Journal of Epidemiology a study reported that a man who sits more than six hours per day has an 18% increased risk of dying from heart disease and an increase of 7.8% of dying from diabetes as compared to a person who sits for three hours a day or less.  As much as we would like to think, thirty minutes or even an hour of exercise does not eradicate the damage of six, eight or more hours of sitting per day. 

As usual, we are not victims.  We were created to live remarkably and we can do it.  Just standing and making simple movements triggers a process related to the breakdown of fats and sugars.  Standing burns three times the amount of calories as sitting does and it reduces back problems.  Some small investments will produce a huge return. So let’s look at some of the plentiful solutions for all of us: 

  • Install a walking station at your work
  • Put your desk on stilts so you can stand and work
  • Sit on a stability (yoga) ball
  • Use a portable stair stepper throughout the day
  • Every phone call you are on stand up and walk around
  • Use a small cup for water so you have to refill it often
  • Perform one minute of exercise such as bodyweight squats every hour
  • Stretch, especially your legs and hip flexors every hour
  • Change body position in your chair often
  • Have meetings while walking and talking, or at least stand and talk

If you sit a lot at home and watch television, read or spend time on the internet, you can adapt some of the solutions above and also try the following:

  • Watch, read or surf on a treadmill or stationary bike
  • Do them while holding a plank position
  • Do them while laying on your back and performing leg lifts or other abdominal or leg exercises
  • Do them while stretching or foam rolling
  • Make a deal with yourself that when a commercial comes on you will stand and read 5 pages, you will perform a certain amount of exercise or you will balance on one foot

Whatever you decide to do, keep moving.  You will live longer, live healthier, live lighter and feel a whole lot better.    


Mayo Clinic article by James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D. “What Are The Risks of Sitting To Much”

Runners World article by Selene Yeager “Is Sitting The New Smoking – Even For Runners?”

Discovery News article by SHEILA M. ELDRED – “Is Sitting the New Smoking”

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