Why Sitting Too Long Can Be Bad for Your Health
Modern mankind seems to have it easy – instead of running around all day hunting for food and protecting our families from danger, many of us get to sit at a desk to earn our living. But according to a recent study, sitting for long periods of time can raise the risk of obesity and heart attack. While regular exercise is also essential, just the simple act of taking a break from sitting in a chair may help improve your health.
The Risks from Sitting All Day
Even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day, if you spend prolonged periods of time engaged in sedentary activities (sitting at a computer, watching television, driving a car, etc.), you might be raising your risk of obesity. A study published in the European Heart Journal found a correlation between the length of time people spent sitting down without a break and larger waist circumference, lower levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and higher triglycerides. But those who did take breaks – even as short as one minute – saw improved waist circumference and cholesterol levels.
Sitting for long periods of time can cause other health problems as well – those who work in front of a computer for hours may experience eye strain as well as wrist, neck and shoulder problems from poor ergonomics. Those at risk of blood clots, such as those with a family history, or who have recently had surgery, need to be especially careful when sitting for prolonged periods, such as long flights or car rides.
Sitting still can be dangerous business. So what can you do?
Tips to Get Moving
The participants in the study showed improved health outcomes with small, frequent breaks. Here are some tips to get out of your chair:
- Stand up when the phone rings.
- Walk over to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing him or her.
- Take a short walk around your office building.
- Position your trash can just out of reach so you have to get up to throw things away.
- Grab a glass of water from the kitchen every couple of hours – you’ll get your needed break and be on your way toward eight glasses a day!
- Do chores during TV commercial breaks.
- If you’re taking a road trip, stop frequently to stretch your legs.
- On an airplane, take a bathroom break or two during the flight.
Stand Up for Your Health
Not much can be done to change our society. Many jobs require sitting at a desk, business transactions and social activities are increasingly conducted on the computer, and commutes aren’t getting any shorter. Although sitting for a long time may be unavoidable, it’s easy to reduce the risks by taking the time for quick walks and stretches. Discuss your lifestyle and risks for obesity, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease with your doctor.