sedentary lifestyle health risks

How much of your day is spent sitting in front of the computer or television?  

New research has come out over the last several years that can be a game changer if sitting is a big part of your day. It is no surprise that the longer we sit, the worse our health is and the shorter we live. Research has proven that the longer you sit, the bigger the problem. In general, if you’re sitting more than three hours a day, meaning from when you get up in the morning, to when you go to bed at night, and you value your health, take heed to what the latest research is uncovering. Heart disease, hypertension, Type II diabetes, cancer, obesity, insomnia, osteoporosis, arthritis and premature death can all have a strong correlation with how much we sit during our waking hours. Not only is there a physical toll, but a mental and emotional toll. A recent study demonstrated that women who sit seven or more hours a day have a 47 percent increase for depression compared to women who sit for four hours or less per day. On top of that, women who had no regular physical activity have a 99 percent increase of developing depression compared to women who regularly exercise.

Will Going To the Gym Save You?

What is shocking about the latest scientific findings reveals that regular exercise will not offset the damaging effects of sitting all day. In other words, if you are at the computer, or in front of the TV for 6 or more hours a day, and you go to the gym regularly to help offset this sedentary lifestyle—it’s not going to help. Does this mean you should give up the gym membership? Not so fast. It appears that the amount you sit and the amount you exercise are two factors that are independent of one another when it comes to your health and well-being. Regular exercise will make a huge positive impact on your health, but don’t be fooled that this alone will counteract long periods of sitting. Let ‘s take a look at what you need to do if you don’t want to suffer, or worse, die from sitting.

Thanks to the research conducted by Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, an explanation for why exercise does not offset prolonged sitting is explored in her book: Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. Her research has shown that it’s not the amount of exercise, or activity that a person performs that will offset the effects of prolonged sitting, but the frequency of changing positions that is the defining difference. What does this mean? If you believe that exercising regularly will offset your time in front of the computer, and the consequences that go along with being on your derriere, it’s not making a significant impact. Add the hours up- sitting in your car, at your computer, in front of your TV, and reading. If it’s more than a few hours, know that your health depends on breaking up the amount of time you are sitting. This research shows that you should not sit for more than 20 minutes without standing up. It’s the act of standing up, ideally every 10-20 minutes that appears to make the biggest difference. As simple as this sounds, what are some strategies that you can start implementing to take advantage of what this research has proven?

  • Place things that you use regularly in a place that you have to stand up to get them. Some examples may include your water bottle, phone, or remote control. Getting up for a drink of water frequently will also ensure you are getting a short walk to the restroom on a regular basis.

  • Instead of a seated meeting, have a walking or standing meeting.

  • Set a timer on your computer or phone to alert you every 10-20 minutes to stand up and take a short walk or a short exercise break.

Will these mini-breaks make you less efficient while working? Studies show that work environments that promote these habits actually increase efficiency and lower absenteeism. Here are 7 simple exercises you can interchange during your mini-breaks. Pick one exercise per mini-break and start with a few reps, working yourself up to 15-20 reps. Avoid any exercises that cause pain or that would be contraindicated due to any medical condition(s) you may have.

Seven Exercises to Keep You Healthy

  • Chair Squats Feet shoulder-width apart, simply repeat going from sitting to standing to sitting. 

    chair squat

    Chair Squat

  • Standing Shoulder Rolls While standing, bring your shoulders up, back and down. 

    shoulder roll

    Shoulder Roll

  • Desk Push Up Use a desk or counter top that will support you and perform a push up. 

    desk push up

    Desk Push Up

  • Standing Neck Stretch While standing, bend your head and neck to the left and right holding for 10-15 seconds. 

    neck stretch

    Neck Stretch

  • Side Lunge While standing, step to the left with your left leg and squat down. Repeat on the right. 

    side lunge

    Side Lunge

  • Jump Squats Squat down and then jump up. 

    jump squat

    Jump Squat Start

    jump squat

    Jump Squat

  • Jumping Jacks 

    jumping jack

    Jumping Jack