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Your Car, Office Chair, and Couch are Conspiring to Kill You. Just a Heads Up.

by Shannon Calderon on June 7, 2013

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Dangers of Sitting

Here's what happens when we sit down. (Graphic: prafulla.net)

Here at The Human Solution, we’ve blogged several times about the very real and quite frightening dangers of prolonged sitting. We have new subscribers to our blog every day, though, so we think it’s worth repeating this information, as the truth will set you free! Free from your sedentary lifestyle and all the health risks associated with being chained to our desks, cars, and couches.

Many people believe that as long as they exercise at a moderate-to-vigorous level for the minimum recommended 150 minutes a week, they are doing enough to ensure good physical health. Unfortunately, this is just not true. Even someone who exercises vigorously for an hour a day or more is still subject to the significant negative health effects of sitting for the rest of the day: during the commute, all day at work, and in front of the television in the evening. This is because, according to a 2010 study published in the Exercise Sport Science Review, “too much sitting is distinct from too little exercise.” You can go for an early-morning five-mile run or hit your Crossfit box for a bunch of double-unders and kettle bell swings, but it will not compensate for the other 22 hours of sedentary time in your day.

So what are the health effects of prolonged sitting? As soon as you sit, muscle activity shuts down, which in turn suppresses lipoprotein lipase activity. LPL is necessary for breaking down fats. Without it, fat accumulates in the blood, and we all know where that train leads: Heart Attack Station. A suppression of LPL also results in reduced glucose uptake, and that train stops at Diabetes Central. Sitting also places us at a higher risk for obesity, no real surprise there. Our calorie-burning rate drops to about one per minute, so we just sit there with fat and glucose hanging out in our bloodstream, thickening our middles and leading us to an early death. Perhaps most surprising, prolonged sitting is also linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer and colon cancer. And again, this is the case even if you regularly exercise. If you don’t exercise at all, the numbers are even more frightening: women who sit for more than six hours per day and are also otherwise inactive are 94% more likely to die prematurely. 94%, ladies!! Inactive men who sit more than six hours per day increase their risk of early death by 48%.

There is good news in all of this. You can significantly reduce your risks of all of the above by simply moving a bit more and breaking up those long periods of sitting. At a minimum, stand up every 45 minutes or so and take a quick walk around the office. You can also stand during phone calls, have walking meetings, or walk to your colleagues’ cubes rather than emailing. It may not seem like this small amount of movement can make a difference, but studies show that it does. Movement reactivates our muscles, gets that fat and glucose processed, and helps us burn more calories. It’s the seemingly small things that add up over time; just as one additional can of soda per day leads to an average 20-pound weight gain in a year, so can small, subtle movements throughout the day add up for good health.

If you find that you enjoy standing up for part of the day, you might want to go for a height-adjustable desk. We want everyone to join the standing desk revolution, and we provide desks for a range of budgets. You may also be able to work with your employer to have them provide a desk for you. Tell them that a 2011 study of sit-to-stand desks showed that 87% of participants felt more comfortable and energized, 75% felt healthier, 71% felt more focused, 66% felt more productive, and 62% felt happier.

Our bodies are simply not designed for this ridiculous amount of sedentariness. Sure, it’s nice to be lazy, but it’s also nice to be alive!

Find more info on staying healthy at work at TheHumanSolution.com

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Written by Shannon Calderon

Shannon Calderon

Shannon comes to THS from a background in writing and teaching. She’s lived and traveled all over the world, but is now a committed South Austinite, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She likes the things you might expect of a former English teacher, like reading, crosswords, tea, and cats. She also enjoys Charlie Kaufman movies, yoga, and being tall.

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