It is Sunday. How much time have you spent sitting today? Did you watch the Indy 500? How about the Professional Bullrider competition? Maybe even the Colonial Golf Tournament? Maybe you worked out in your yard today. But if you work in an office, you probably sit a lot. If you are retired, you are probably sitting a lot—watching TV or relating to Facebook on the computer or other time wasters (some computer play time is fine, a lot is not fine!).
Researchers looked at 47 studies and came to the conclusion that people who sit for long periods of time actually are raising their risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and early death (the result of those diseases). But, you say that you exercise daily, so wouldn’t that counter the sitting hours? To give you a lawyer’s response, “That depends.” If you are just meeting the recommended daily level of exercise, then sitting for long periods of time increases your likelihood of declining health, as published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The studies showed that the risk of poor health “is more pronounced at lower levels of physical activity than at higher levels.
What were the other results? If you engage in regular physical activity and still spend a large proportion of your day in sedentary activity, on average, you are 30 percent less like to die of any cause in a given period that those who don’t exercise at all. BUT—there is always that “but”—if you are spending the major portion of your day sitting, you are 16 percent more like to die of any cause than those who do not sit for long, in a given period.
You are probably curious as to how “prolonged sitting” is defined, which is, watching TV for at least 5 hours a day on up, with one study looking at 11 hours of day being a couch potato. On the low end, prolonged sitting is defined as one hour of sitting in a day. The recommended physical activity guidelines call for at least 20 minutes a day of moderately vigorous exercise.
In short, sitting has been found to increase your health risks independently of other factors which we know would contribute to poor health, such as smoking and obesity. That translates to, for example, long hours of sitting contributing to weight gain, even if it doesn’t make you obese.
The most astonishing results of this research pertained to diabetics. Tune in tomorrow to see what the research shows us there, and what you can do to offset the damage that sitting too much does to your health.