Much research has identified obvious reasons not to sit for long periods. The negative health aspects to health of sitting for long periods, such as neck, shoulder or back pain are no doubt familiar to most of us.
However, new research has identified much more serious consequences from being sedentary, which include heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The study found diabetes type 2 risk was elevated by 20% and by 15% for heart disease when seated for a prolonged period. The increase of diabetes may have been due to the effects of glucose and insulin levels in the blood when sitting. The study found that walking for 2 minutes every 20 minutes controlled glucose and therefore insulin levels by more than 20%, than just remaining seated after consuming a test drink (sugar based).
In another study exercise has been shown to increase intelligence! Interviews were conducted at regular age intervals from the age of 11 to monitor levels of exercise. Those who had exercised two to three times per month or more scored higher in memory, attention and intelligence tests than those who had not.
So what exactly is prolonged sitting?
It is classified as anything more than 11 hours per day….which may sound a long time but really it isn’t when you consider that many people sit at work or in front of a TV or computer much of their day and evening. The above study recommended sitting for less than 4 hours per day and that “public health programs should focus on reducing sitting time in addition to increasing physical activity levels”.
Now I don’t know about you but I find sitting is very beneficial. As long as it is interspersed with regular activity I feel that it is good personally for reducing blood pressure, stabilising blood glucose and increasing a feeling of wellbeing. When I was working in an office I found the sitting part of my day never occurred for too long a period – hence the constant hallway/tearoom chats and standing up to type or chat on the phone. I was a restless colleague! When I travelled in the car alot (3-4hrs/day) for meetings I was certainly at my peak of unhealthiness!
What to do?
I suggest that regular activity, even simply the motion of standing up or stretching out may be enough to counteract this sitting problem. An ergonomically friendly chair, a good stretch, some deep breathing exercises and a positive outlook have to be better than trying to keep constantly active – that just sounds exhausting right?! This study even backs up this theory stating that “increased mortality risk for prolonged sitting only (occurs) among participants not meeting physical activity guidelines”.
So there you have it. Rest and recuperate but get off your bum regularly and shake it all about!