Death By Sitting


On average, adults in high- and middle-income countries around the world spend nearly 10 of their waking hours a day on sedentary activities. The average American office worker can sit for 13 to 15 hours a day. People in agrarian villages sit for about three hours a day.

Overwhelming evidence shows that prolonged sitting is devastating to your health and a risk factor for premature death, even if you exercise regularly and are very fit. Hours of inactivity causes molecular changes at the cellular level that contribute to at least 24 different chronic diseases that include obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.

Dr. James Levine, author of Get Up!: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, is co-director of the Obesity Initiative for Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University, and he’s also the inventor of the treadmill desk. He recommends sitting no more than 50 minutes out of every hour, and the less, the better. According to Dr. Levine, as you stand up, a series of molecular effects are activated simply by weight-bearing; by carrying your bodyweight upon your legs. The ways your body handles blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol are beneficially impacted, for example, as are the mechanisms that push fuels into your cells.

Dr. Joan Vernikos, the author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, is a retired NASA scientist who monitored the recovery of the astronauts from the effects of space travel. She found that prolonged sitting produces the same body decline astronauts suffer in a weightless environment. She says that merely standing up over 30 times a day is a powerful antidote for long periods of sitting and is more effective than walking. “It’s not how many hours of sitting is bad for you,” she says. “It’s how often you interrupt that sitting that is good for you.”

Both experts agree that while regular, traditional exercise programs are to be encouraged, it is ordinary, non-exercise movement spread throughout the day that offsets prolonged sitting. So stand up, and stand often.

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