Did you know that something as seemingly harmless as sitting is raising brows among healthcare professionals? There is a growing health concern that we are spending unhealthy amounts sitting both at work and at home. Sitting for prolonged hours has several detrimental effects on both physical and mental health. The sitting epidemic is so strong that it is increasingly being likened to smoking. In fact, one British study has found that while cigarette smoking shorten life by 11 minutes per cigarette, those who sit for an hour reduce their lifespan by 22 minutes!
Another study in the European Association of Diabetes journal has measured the risks of chronic diseases by comparing those who sit the most versus those who sit the least. There was a 110% increase in diabetes, 150% increase in death from cardiovascular diseases and a 90% increase in death from other cardiovascular causes. The risks were independent of other risks of contracting these diseases. Chronic diabetes, that is uncontrolled blood sugar concentration, occur from the disrupted metabolism from prolonged sitting. Additionally, chronic sitting eventually results in muscle degeneration with subsequent loss of muscle strength and muscle weakness. People who sit chronically are therefore more likely to feel easily fatigued from lack of physical strength.
It turns out that the harmful effects of sitting all day is not negated even when we start the day with some aerobic exercise. Research has shown that those who exercise regularly but end up having to sit long hours for the rest of the day are still at high risk. The issue seems to lie with persistent sitting.
Therefore, the solution seems to be intermittent getting up, going around and trying as much as possible to stay on the go. Easier said than done of course. So how can we stay constantly on the go? We can try to do some incidental workouts – such as finding any opportunity to get up from our desk, walk around every now and then, walk the longer route to get coffee or to get to the restroom or even take a standing rest break during meetings. Other ways of doing incidental workouts include taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further from the entrance to the grocery, malls etc.