Sitting, a seemingly benign (non)activity, is now the bane of every corporate employee. Panic is so widespread that some people resort to all sorts of gimmicks to avoid lurking on an office chair — an invitation for Ms. Death to scythe you like a sitting duck.
The reality is less dramatic, but science still says that sitting is bad. How bad? We don’t have the numbers on that yet, but it’s pretty bad. And if you think jogging every other day is going to offset your sitting routine, think again. A new study suggests the health risks sitting brings won’t go away with exercise.
What can you do? Stop sitting. I know…
“Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels,” said Deborah Rohm Young, Ph.D., director of behavioral research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena.
The paper, published in the American Heart Association journal’s Circulation, says a sedentary lifestyle comes with an increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, impaired insulin sensitivity (linked to diabetes) and an overall higher risk of death from any cause. Oh, god. Ok, now back to the depressing part.
Researchers advise each person should strive to follow the American Heart Association’s weekly recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. They stress, however, that moderate to vigorous physical activity won’t cancel the effects of sitting on your butt for eight hours onward. Instead, people should space out physical activity as broadly as time allows. Any opportunity for walking, house cleaning or just about anything that involves standing should be taken.
If it helps to cure your sitting anxiety, it’s worth noting that studies on the risks of sedentarism haven’t established a cause and effect. There is much we don’t know and, moreover, scholars are still debating just how bad sitting is. For instance, researchers at University of Exeter and University College London, both from the UK, followed the sitting habits of more than 5,000 people for more than a decade and a half. They found sitting too much won’t lead you to an early grave — it will make the rest of your life kinda miserable, though, healthwise.
“There are many important factors we don’t understand about sedentary time yet. The types of studies available identify trends but don’t prove cause and effect,” said Young. “We don’t have information about how much sedentary behavior is bad for health–the best advice at this time is to ‘sit less and move more.'”