You wake early to exercise, or somehow squeeze an exercise routine into a busy day, and you are feeling pretty good about yourself. At the end of the day, you are happy that exercise is off of your “to do” list. But, what if I told you that it doesn’t matter how much you exercise if you sit the rest of the day? Sitting, it turns out, can be deadly – even if you spend part of the day being active.
Who would have imagined that sitting for long periods of time would cause such ill health? Researchers are now taking seriously the thought that sitting all day may be as bad for you as smoking – even if you exercise.
Think about all the time you spend sitting. You sit in your car, bus, or train on the way to work. Maybe your job requires you to sit (truck driver, phone customer service, cabbie, pilots). A lot of us spend the day behind a keyboard typing out words (like I am right now). Even on the weekend, or when we make it home from a long day, we sit in front of the television.
All that sitting, we used to think, is not a problem if you get your recommended 20-30 minutes of exercise in a day. But what researchers have found out is that, after exercising, people can be incredible sedentary the rest of the day. Don’t get me wrong, exercise is good for you, but if you spend the rest of the time sitting all day, those benefits evaporate.
Think about it this way: if you smoke and exercise you still are at a higher risk of lung cancer, the same is true of sitting. Studies have shown that people who are active still sit an average of nine hours a day – even if they exercise. We have all turned into active couch potatoes, a term coined by Australian researcher Genevive Healy. And couch potatoes (even active couch potatoes) are at increased risk for diabetes, heart-disease, breast and colon cancer. Conditions such as depression, anxiety and even death are now associated with how long you sit.
What is the reason? It appears that sitting (inactivity) suppresses a skeletal muscle enzyme lipid phosphate phosphatase-1 (LPP1) that helps prevent blood clotting and inflammation. LPP1 is significantly suppressed with you sit even for a few hours.
What to Do
First of all, don’t stop exercising (there are still great reasons to exercise).
- Any Excuse: Use any excuse you can think of to stand up. The phone rings: you stand. Need to send an e-mail: get up and walk over to the person and talk with them instead.
- Get Up and Down on Your Feet: I am writing this blog post, but my desk is high enough that I can stand and type (I have a tall chair for when I want to sit). I change positions often: sit, stand, sit, stand….
- Alarming: Set a notice on your computer or watch for every hour to get up and do something.
- Exercise: You have heard this all before: take the stairs, park farther away, take a walking lunch break, walk to the store, or when you run errands. Try to make exercise part of your daily life.
- No more sitting meetings: If you are at work, try having meeting where you walk instead of sit; it can do wonders for creativity (although it is bad for note-taking)
The reason sitting is so harmful is that you are staying still for a long time. Think of anything you can to break up your stillness and you will be great.