Sitting has been described as ‘the new smoking’ due to the associated health risks with spending too much time on your derrière. For example, new research suggests that every hour spent sitting watching TV after age 25 reduces the viewers life expectancy by 22 minutes!
One reason put forward is that allowing the larger muscles to relax whilst sitting, reduces the activity of a molecule called lipoprotein lipase – this is involved in metabolism and specifically assists extracting glucose and fat from the blood. Long periods of inactivity are also associated with reductions in muscle mass, cardiovascular fitness, and strength.
So what strategies can mitigate this sofa slide?
- Tracking your movement with a fitbit or other movement based apps can be a great way to get a baseline measure of how much you are walking and moving each day.
- Try to reduce your time sitting an hour or two less each day.
- Reminders from apps can be setup to get you standing up on a regular basis throughout the day (e.g. Standup!).
- Try to do some tasks standing up if it is not necessary that they are done sitting (e.g. phone calls)
- If you have been sitting for an hour, make a habit of going for a 5-10 minute walk if possible after sedentary periods like this.
- You can now get sit-stand desks that allow you to alternate between sitting and standing easily throughout the day. For example, backcare and seating have a desktop sit to stand module that is easily setup.
By making some small changes to how long you spend sitting each day you can reduce your risk of chronic illness, even your DNA (telomeres shorten less-associated with ageing) will begin to exhibit healthy changes.
You could add a few years to your life expectancy, reduce weight around your middle area (‘fat around the middle’ is also a strong indicator for the potential to develop chronic illness), burn more calories, have better cardiovascular function and generally feel happier.
1. Good Health magazine, July 2015, pg. 48