You might want to sit down to hear this – or maybe not
If you’re reading this on your phone, maybe you’re standing. But if you’re reading this on a computer, the odds are high that you’re sitting down.
And that’s not good.
Studies in recent years have shown that sitting is bad for you health, with some health advocates saying that “sitting is the new smoking.”
A new study might just be enough to get you to jump to your feet. Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study found that prolonged daily sitting is linked to 3.8 percent of all deaths around the world.
Using data from 54 countries, the study’s authors looked at the effect that sitting more than three hours a day had on death rates. The researchers connected sitting with 433,000 deaths a year from 2002 through 2011.
Cape Cod Hospital cardiologist Elissa Thompson, MD, was not surprised by the study’s findings.
“This study offers more information to support what we already know,” she said. “It’s more evidence of the trend of the downward spiraling of developed countries in terms of obesity and all of the cohorted issues that go along with inactivity,” she said.
Decreased exercise leads to hypertension, elevation in blood glucose and elevation in triglycerides, according to Dr. Thompson.
“The diseases that I treat and the diseases that cause the diseases that I treat are closely tied with physical inactivity and lack of physical fitness. These diseases have been proven to improve with increased physical activity.”
Downside of Modern Life
Reducing your daily sitting time by just 10 percent can lessen your risks, the study’s lead investigator Leandro Rezende, MSc, of the department of preventive medicine at the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine, said in a news release.
“Bolder changes –for instance, 50 percent decrease or 2 hours fewer – would represent at least three times fewer deaths,” she said.
The sitting risk is one of the downsides of modern life, said Dr. Thompson.
“So many of the businesses that we are in segregate us into cubicles, and we’re not up and working in farming or doing heavy lifting. We are much more computer-based and office-based, and that is contributing to what is going on in terms of the obesity epidemic and the diabetes epidemic.
“Cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer of people in the developed world. We’ve known that for almost 100 years. Despite the fact that we have life-saving interventions, like coronary angioplasty and percutaneous interventions and surgeries and all of the amazing drugs that we’ve come up with in the last 40 to 50 years, we still haven’t put a dent in that statistic, and it’s because during that time, these past two generations, we are getting more and more sedentary,” she said.
Dr. Thompson is the medical director of Cape Cod Healthcare’s cardiac rehabilitation program and Cape Cod National Seashore’s Healthy Parks, Healthy People program, which encourages people to walk more.
“We know that if you do exercise, your glucose levels come down, your weight will come down, your blood pressure will come down, your cholesterol will be improved,” she said.
Ways to cut down on sitting while at work include:
- Standing while on the phone
- Walking to a colleague’s desk instead of sending an email.
Dr. Thompson encourages people to use stairs instead of elevators and to track steps with an activity monitor, aiming for 10,000 steps a day.
“Any time spent on your feet is good, and time spent moving is better,” she said.
By the way, I stood up while conducting my interview with Dr. Thompson and while writing this article. Every little bit helps, right?