When you work at any job that requires long hours sitting at a computer – programming, accounting, writing – it is very easy to stay in that one position for eight to nine working hours every day.
Sure, you might get up for a drink of water, a bathroom break, or for lunch, but I’m sure you can remember days when, before you knew it, you’d been sitting in that chair for two to four hours at a time. Deep down you know that sitting for such long period of time can’t be good, but really, how bad can it be?
I really started the long stretches at the computer starting at a very young age. I played video games as early as grade school, and did so for long hours into the night when I was in high school. Sitting for four or five hours straight during the weekend while playing an RPG was not unheard of. Time flies when you dive into those virtual worlds – it’s surreal sometimes.
I never really stopped to think what sort of damage I was doing to my body as a teenager. And once I graduated college and went to work as an engineer, I didn’t even consider what would happen to my body once I started sitting at a desk for almost eight hours every day – usually a couple of hours at one stretch before doing any walking.
Sure, the increasing waistline and tightening shirts after a year of full-time professional work gave me some clue what might be happening, but I figured once I started hitting the gym every day for an hour after work I could quickly handle that little problem.
Killing Yourself by SittingYou’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, “Oh great, another article telling me how unhealthy it is to be sitting here reading this article.”
Look, I’m not about to start preaching turning off the computer and going for a long walk this very moment. I love computers. I don’t think I’ll ever quit sitting in front of a computer – but when you really start looking at the facts, it isn’t so much the fact that we’re all sitting in front of a computer, it’s the fact that we’re doing it for such long stretches of time without any break.
It’s important to understand just how seriously this behavior can affect you, because the threat is very real and it’s significant. There are four categories of health that studies show sitting too long can impact – cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Overall – You’ll Die a Lot EarlierCountless studies show time and time again that being physically inactive leads to a whole list of health problems that will kill you. Taking everything into account, the World Health Organization reports that being physically inactive comes in fourth as a leading risk factor for death. That’s Death with a capital D.
Bottom line – sitting over eleven hours a day results in a 40 percent higher chance of dying from any cause at all. That’s crazy.
The WHO report mentioned above solidifies this finding. Inactivity was found to be the main cause of about a quarter of breast and colon cancers, 27 percent of diabetes cases, and 30 percent of heart disease cases.
The study in the Archives of Internal Medicine came from researchers at the University of Sydney, who reported that going to the gym or taking a walk is important, but prolonged sitting may actually be counteracting the health effects of that workout entirely.
Sit Too Long Can Increase Your Risk of CancerIt seems like everything causes Cancer these days. Cellphones. Microwaves. Cat scans and X-Rays. But sitting?
Yup. Sitting increases your risk of getting cancer in a very big way. The American Institute for Cancer Research held its annual conference early in 2012 and highlighted at that conference were specific research findings showing that 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer in the U.S. could be linked to inactivity.
The good news is that experts give you a very clear path to wipe out the risk starting right now. Take a break. The AICR responded directly to the research by urging readers to take a break from sitting every single hour – taking a couple of minutes to walk around, stretch, get a drink – whatever – can literally save your life.
That Chair May Give You Diabetes and Heart DiseaseOkay, so you know if you don’t give yourself at least a minute break every hour or so, you could be in for some trouble down the road with the C word, but is cancer the only concern (as though that’s not bad enough on its own)?
Well, unfortunately, Diabetes is the other risk factor when it comes to sitting around for hours at a time., the data from those studies reveal a clear correlation between more than two hours of TV viewing time and risk factors for type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease. The risk of heart disease increased by 15 percent. For diabetes, the risk increased by 20 percent for people that watched TV more than two hours a day. 20 percent!
that when people lower their activity from over 10,000 steps a day to less than 5,000 steps a day, physical changes in the body directly increase that person’s risk of type 2 diabetes.
Obviously, the opposite must hold true. If you get up from from that desk every 40 minutes and take a good 10 minute walk, and then take a nice 60 minute walk after work, the odds are pretty good that you could achieve a daily goal over 10,000 and significantly reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.
“1 day of sitting elicits large reductions in insulin action”, and another study from the University of South Carolina that found a direct correlation between time spent sitting and riding in a car, and cardiovascular disease death.
Sitting Too Long and ObesityIt should come as no surprise to anyone that if you sit too long during the day, you’ll get fat. So I’m not going to bore you with research that proves that, it’s pretty obvious. However, there was one particular study related to obesity and sitting too long that really threw me for a loop.
Clearly, the inactivity of sitting burns fewer calories and most people likely are not cutting down on calories just because they’re sitting so long (in fact, they’re probably snacking more), so that positive calorie balance will go directly to your bottom – or for some people, their spare tires.
But did you know that the mechanical pressure on your backside itself literally forces the cells in your fanny to transform into larger fat cells? Crazy right? It’s true.
the preadipocyte cells, which are the cells in your body that turn into fat cells, will actually transform into fat cells faster when they are put under long periods of “mechanical stretching loads”.
This means – my dieting friends – that you can try and cut calories, but if you plan to continue sitting behind that desk for three or four hour stretches at a time without a single break, the odds are pretty good that you’re going to have some major junk in the trunk.
Unfortunately, the list doesn’t stop there. During my escapades through literary journals and University research websites, I discovered studies showing links between sitting too long and everything from increased risk of kidney disease, to a high risk for blood clots in the legs. In fact, the blood clot issue related to excessive computer use is becoming known in medical circles as “e-thrombosis”.
So, now that you know sitting on that chair for several hours at a stretch is nearly as bad for your health as smoking, what are you going to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to install an Android timer on my tablet, set it to go off at work every 40 minutes, and take a 5 minute walk. It may not sound like much, but those breaks could literally save your life.