Sitting is the New Smoking
When you think about the dangers in your life, you probably don’t think about sitting. Being a “couch potato” seems innocuous, but according to health experts, prolonged periods of sitting have been linked to serious health problems.
Dr. James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, coined the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking”. Any extended sitting —in a car, at a computer or in front of a screen — can be harmful.
Research has documented that sitting for long periods of time is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and anxiety. Studies have found decreased hip mobility is one of the main reasons that older people tend to fall. Chronic sitters have tight hip flexor muscles and weakening of the legs.
In addition, researchers from UCLA discovered that adults without dementia who spent more time sitting in the day had greater thinning of an area of the brain that is important for making memories (medial temporal lobe).
Exercise is not enough!
Research shows that although exercise is very positive it doesn’t negate the damage done by extended periods of sitting. Cardiology experts reviewing evidence in the journal Circulation say “no amount of physical activity is enough to combat the dangerous health effects of sitting for hours each day.”
The cure for the negative effects of sitting isn’t exercising more. It’s sitting less. Of course, this doesn’t mean that regular exercise is unimportant for your health. Rather, it is important to do both regular exercise and reduce sitting time.
What else can you do?
Research demonstrates that interrupting bouts of sitting is an important way to improve health.
Some tips include:
- Five minutes of standing activities (walking the dog, folding laundry or taking out the trash) for every hour of sitting is sufficient to combat sedentary behavior.
- Set alarms on your phone to remind you to stand up and move every hour.
- Walk around while talking on your phone.
- Stand up during television ads and walk around the room.
- A short walk (10 minutes) after each meal reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Take the stairs when that is an option.
One simple lifestyle change: reducing the time you spend sitting is the key to a dramatic difference to your physical and mental health. You have the key!