Over my 15 years in Practice I am amazed how sedentary life has become. Computers, mobile phones, remotes for TV, social media and travelling more and often longer distances have all contributed to changing life styles which I feel has great significance. So I decided to do some research.
I found a survey of 20 countries reporting an average of 300 minutes of sitting down each day – low end in Portugal, Brazil and Colombia with an average of 180 minutes to a high end of 360 minutes each day in Taiwan, Norway, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Worst of all, in the United States, with similar health trends to Australia, estimates put the average at more than 550 minutes each day, nearly 100 minutes than they spend sleeping. This is over 9 hours sitting each day!
Research is revealing the true extent of these surveys with studies linking long sitting periods with a host of health issues. These include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around our middles, poor cholesterol levels and resultant obesity. It is also thought to increase the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease and cancer.
One study compared adults who spent more than two hours in front of screen-based leisure with those who logged more than four hours. The latter group had 125% greater risk of symptoms associated with pain relating to cardiovascular disease. Men who reported spending more than 10 hours per week driving a car and more than 23 hours per week of combined driving and watching TV had a 62-84% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who reported less than 11 hours per week.
So, what exactly is happening to our bodies when we sit down for two hours or more?
Calorie burning decreases and fat burning enzymes drop by 90%.
The manufacture of HDL (good cholesterol) drops by 20% and after 4 hours the insulin effectiveness drops by 24%.
For many of us sitting for stretches of 2-4 hours is not unusual so we might squeeze in a few mad hours at the gym each week which, surprisingly, does not significantly offset this risk. This doesn’t mean you can stop exercising, which is still very important but during those sitting hours maximize your efforts by simply getting into the habit of standing up whenever possible and having a good stretch …….. and I’m going to do that right now myself!
So what has that done for me? That movement of my body, albeit a relaxed one is immediate. Movement reduces the risks of prolonged sitting by increasing the calorie burning rate as well as fat and sugar burning enzymes. It’s also increased my energy and contributed to a better chance of weight loss.
When you are at your office desk/computer or indulging in screen time leisure, start by setting your alarm for every 30 minutes and stand up and move. When watching TV get up and move during commercial breaks. With the number of these on TV you should soon notice the effects! When using a mobile phone try and take your calls standing up or walking. Just remember, every time you get up from the sitting position you improve your health in more ways than you can imagine. We were given legs for walking and it is the best exercise you can get.
For all the ways we try to change our lifestyles and trial various exercise regimes, diets and food fads, the most uncomplicated recommendation that I can give is spending less time sitting down.
There is a strong case for telling almost everyone who comes through my door, no matter what their problem is…………… stand up for your health!