Did you know… “Too much sitting is hazardous to your health?”  There is a relatively new science called “inactive physiology” where the effects of sedentary behavior are investigated and analyzed to find out what, if anything, happens to our bodies when we sit too much. It turns out quite a lot happens (and, if you noticed the title, “Beware of Your Chair,” you’d be right in thinking it’s not all good). 

Let me give you a few interesting bits of information about why sitting is so bad for your health:

–         Adults and children in the U.S. spend the majority of their non-exercising waking day in some form of sedentary behavior such as riding in a car, working at a desk, eating a meal at a table, playing video games, working on a computer and watching television. (Owen et al., 2009; Katzmarzyk et al., 2009)

–         Men in physically active jobs have less coronary artery disease during middle-age, and what disease they have is less severe, and they develop it later in life than men in physically inactive jobs. (Morris & Crawford, 1958)

–         Even with physically active individuals, there is a strong association between sitting and mortality (dying) risk from all causes including cardiovascular disease. (Katzmarzyk et al., 2009)

The first thing to know is that people – men, women AND children – whether physically fit or not, spend a LOT of time sitting down. Some scientists have estimated sitting time to be at least 70% for physically active people. If it’s 70% for physically active people, what is it for true couch potatoes? A lot higher!

So why does it matter that we sit so much; what’s so bad about sitting? Well, let’s take a look at what happens to a person’s blood when he or she sits for long periods of time. There is an enzyme in the body called lipoprotein lipase and it captures fat (triglyceride) out of the blood to be used by the body for fuel. When the body is sedentary (sitting is an example of being sedentary) for long periods there is a huge drop in this enzyme that badly affects the fat in the blood. The fat, instead of being stored for later or used as fuel, stays in the blood which sends blood fat levels soaring caising what we know as high cholesterol and so increases the chance of cardio-vascular disease.

Knowing this, what can be done about it? Here are some simple things you can do to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting and being sedentary:

–         Keep a log of your activities throughout a single day starting with the time you wake up. Keep tabls on how long you spend at each activity. Make sure you log the activity AND the time taken. Don’t forget to include your evening activities and the time you go to sleep.

–         Now, take an honest look at how much time you actually sit in a day. Highlight the longest periods of sitting. These you can focus on fixing first.

–         Some ideas are to set a timer to remind yourself to get up and move around every thirty minutes or so and be sure to stand when you make and take phone calls.

–         Keep going through your log and work out ways to reduce your daily sitting time, be as inventive and creative as you like.

Hopefully this article gives you some new ideas on how to improve your overall health and longevity. If anything, you might be looking at that favorite chair in a whole new light.

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Tracey Thatcher

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