Sitting too much poses health risks, experts urge patients to “go vertical”
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – July 2012 If you are sitting down while reading this, you may want to stand up. There is mounting evidence that sitting too many hours in a day might not only lead to weight gain, but might just make you sick.
“We are sitting more and more and more,” said Anup Kanodia, MD, of the Center for Personalized Health Care at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “The average person went from standing 90 percent to standing just 35 percent of their day,” ¹ and that is having a profound impact on our overall health.
Studies have shown a link between sitting too much and weighing too much. Those who are obese sit an average of two and a half hours a day more than those who are of average weight ²; sitting too many hours in a day makes your body much less efficient at processing insulin ³ and might even be a factor in the growing number of lower back injuries.
But that’s just the beginning. “Excessive sitting increases our risk of heart disease by thirty percent,” ⁴ said Kanodia, and can even lead to a rise in cholesterol levels.
There are enzymes in our bodies called lipoprotein lipase, which work to convert bad cholesterol (LDL) into good cholesterol (HDL), which help to keep our arteries from developing plaque. “But when we sit down, those levels change dramatically,” said Kanodia. “In fact, within just one hour of sitting, levels of that enzyme drop by 95 percent in our body.” ⁵
The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to run a marathon or join a gym to begin to turn those numbers around. There are some very simple steps you can take to burn more calories and get healthier throughout the day.
Take Lisa Christian, for example. “I sit all day at the office, I commute to and from work, like a lot of people,” she said, “and with a 2-year old I have even less time to try to get in formal workouts. So I needed to find a way to increase the amount of activity and exercise I was getting during the day.”
So, Christian invested in a treadmill work station, allowing her to walk while she works. “It’s been amazing,” she said. “I’ve had it for about six weeks now, and have been using it between two to two and a half hours a day, and it’s making a big difference.”
“It’s not intended to give you a really strenuous workout,” Christian said. “It just allows you to do simple things like type, or participate in conference calls, all while reducing the amount of time you’re sedentary.”
If you don’t have the money or the space for a treadmill desk, don’t worry. Kanodia says there are a lot of opportunities to stand and walk more throughout the day.
“If we’re going to be at work for 8 hours a day, why don’t we just stand for some of it, or take short walks,” said Kanodia. “You can keep it simple and still make a big difference.”
Here are some tips you may want to incorporate into your daily routine at the office:
-Standing phone calls. “Every time the phone rings, get in the habit of standing up to answer it,” said Kanodia. “Stand for the two or three minutes you’re on the phone, and if you do that several times a day, it really adds up.”
-Hold walking meetings. “I love this concept,” said Kanodia. “We burn about a hundred calories an hour just sitting there, but if you walk just 5 minutes every hour, you could burn 50 percent more energy.” ⁶
-Choose conversations over email. Keep track of how many emails you send to coworkers each day, then try to replace some of those emails with actual conversations. You may be surprised how much exercise you’ll get if you simply get up and walk to your coworkers’ desks to have conversations.
“When you’re standing or moving around, your muscles are contracting and firing,” said Kanodia, “insulin is moving sugar from the blood into different cells and you’re burning energy. And when you’re sitting? None of that happens.”
“For most people,” said Kanodia, “they come to work in the morning, and if they just sit there for 8 hours a day, they’re leaving work sicker than they came.”