Sitting can kill you. That’s the warning from scientists who have been studying the affects of sitting for prolonged periods, and it’s not just a warning to couch potatoes. Even people who exercise regularly can be endangering their health over the long term if they remain seated for more than four hours each day without getting up.
Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that the lipoprotein lipase, a key fat burning enzyme, gets shut off after someone has been sitting for awhile. Fat, which would normally be absorbed into the muscles, ends up being recirculated into the bloodstream and becomes body fat, putting the person at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and a host of other weight related illnesses.
This happens whether someone has spent the morning running on a treadmill or whether they have done no exercise at all. It’s not the lack of daily exercise that’s causing this. It’s the lack of standing and moving at intervals throughout the day.
A Canadian study that tracked more than 17,000 subjects for more than ten years discovered that people who sat for prolonged periods had a higher risk of death from weight related illnesses even if they exercised. What’s more, the amount of sitting is directly correlated with the tendency to be overweight. A study in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that people who sat for 7.5 hours a day were more likely to be overweight than those whose sat for 4.7 hours a day.
Of course none of this happens overnight. Most people tend to become gradually heavier over time. They may attribute this to a slowing metabolism due to aging but the more likely culprit is the cumulative affect of long stretches of sitting throughout each day.
Figures cited by USA Today from a survey taken in 2003-2004 found that most Americans spend more than half of everyday day sitting. And it’s no wonder. Most jobs today require us to sit in front of a computer screen, rather than swinging a sledgehammer or pushing a plow. So what’s an office worker to do?
In short, stand up. That’s right. You don’t have to pace yourself on a treadmill while you’re working those spreadsheets. All you have to do is stand up every once in awhile. The very act of standing calls on your muscles to go to work supporting your weight and holding you upright, which burns calories. To burn a few more calories take a stroll around the office, make a visit to the water cooler.
You can even burn calories sitting, as long as you sit in the right way. Your supervisor might think you’re cracked but try sitting on a therapy ball rather than a chair. The act of keeping yourself balanced burns calories. This is active sitting as opposed to passive sitting, and it’s the passive sitting that can kill you.
All this time you’ve been thinking that moving around in the world is potentially dangerous, and that by going into your cubicle and sitting down you were a safe as you could be. Think again. Sitting can kill you. But the cure for this particular malady is simple. Get up and move around. Flip those fat burning molecules back on.
Stand up so your body doesn’t go into standby.