Why is Sitting compared to Smoking?
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We live in an age where there is a majority of people sitting for long periods of time in front of a computer or watching TV. Recently research has shown how this can affect your health.
Living a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to your health. The less sitting or lying down you do during the day, the better your chances of living a healthy life.
If you stand or move around during the day, you have a lower risk of early death than if you sit at a desk. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you have a higher chance of being overweight, developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease, and experiencing depression and anxiety.
How does a sedentary lifestyle affect your body?
Humans are built to stand upright. Your heart and cardiovascular system work more effectively that way. Your bowel also functions more efficiently when you are upright. It is common for people who are bedridden in a hospital to experience problems with their bowel function.
When you are physically active, on the other hand, your overall energy levels and endurance improve, and your bones maintain strength.
Legs and gluteals (bum muscles)
Sitting for long periods can lead to weakening and wasting away of the large leg and gluteal muscles. These large muscles are important for walking and for stabilizing you. If these muscles are weak you are more likely to injure yourself from falls, and strains when you do exercise.
Moving your muscles helps your body digest the fats and sugars you eat. If you spend a lot of time sitting, digestion is not as efficient, so you retain those fats and sugars as fat in your body.
Even if you exercise but spend a large amount of time sitting, you are still risking health problems, such as metabolic syndrome. The latest research suggests you need 60–75 minutes per day of moderate-intensity activity to combat the dangers of excessive sitting.
Hips and back
Just like your legs and gluteals, your hips and back will not support you as well if you sit for long periods. Sitting causes your hip flexor muscles to shorten, which can lead to problems with your hip joints.
Sitting for long periods can also cause problems with your back, especially if you consistently sit with poor posture or don’t use an ergonomically designed chair or workstation. Poor posture may also cause poor spine health such as compression in the discs in your spine, leading to premature degeneration, which can be very painful.
We don’t understand the links between sitting and mental health as well as we do the links between sitting and physical health yet, but we do know that the risk of both anxiety and depression is higher in people who sit more.
This might be because people who spend a lot of time sitting are missing the positive effects of physical activity and fitness. If so, getting up and moving may help.
Emerging studies suggest the dangers of sitting include increasing your chances of developing some types of cancer, including lung, uterine, and colon cancers. The reason behind this is not yet known.
Sitting for long periods has been linked to heart disease. One study found that men who watch more than 23 hours of television a week have a 64 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than men who only watch 11 hours of television a week.
Some experts say that people who are inactive and sit for long periods have a 147 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Studies have shown that even five days of lying in bed can lead to increased insulin resistance in your body (this will cause your blood sugars to increase above what is healthy). Research suggests that people who spend more time sitting have a 112 percent higher risk of diabetes.
Sitting for long periods can lead to varicose veins or spider veins (a smaller version of varicose veins). This is because sitting causes blood to pool in your legs.
Varicose veins aren’t usually dangerous. In rare cases, they can lead to blood clots, which can cause serious problems (see deep vein thrombosis, below).
Deep vein thrombosis
Sitting for too long can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), for example on a long plane or car trip. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the veins of your leg.
DVT is a serious problem because if part of a blood clot in the leg vein breaks off and travels, it can cut off the blood flow to other parts of the body, including your lungs, which can cause a pulmonary embolism. This is a medical emergency that can lead to major complications or even death.
Stiff neck and shoulders
If you spend your time hunched over a computer keyboard, this can lead to pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders.
How sedentary are we?
Physical inactivity contributes to over three million preventable deaths worldwide each year (that’s six percent of all deaths).
It is the fourth leading cause of death due to non-communicable diseases.
It’s also the cause of 21–25 percent of breast and colon cancers, 27 percent of diabetes cases, and around 30 percent of ischaemic heart disease. In fact, physical inactivity is the second highest cause of cancer in Australia, behind tobacco smoking.
The Australian Health Survey 2011–12 results show:
- 60 percent of Australian adults do less than the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day.
- Only one-third of Australian children, and one in 10 young people (aged 5–17), do the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
- Fewer than one in three children and young people have no more than two hours of screen time each day.
- Almost 70 percent of Australian adults can be classed as either sedentary or having low levels of physical activity.
Children and young people
The Australian Health Survey found that toddlers and preschoolers (aged 2–4 years) spent an average of six hours a day doing some form of physical activity, and one and a half hours having some form of screen time.
These numbers changed dramatically when the survey looked at children and young people (aged 5–17 years). They spend just one and a half hours a day doing physical activities, and over two hours each day on screen time.
The time spent on physical activity grew smaller as the young people got older, while the time spent on screen-based activities grew higher.
Just under half of all children and young people (aged 2–17) had at least one type of screen (such as a television, computer, or game console) in their bedroom. That figure grew to three-quarters for young people aged 15–17.
The 15–17-year age group was the least likely to walk 12,000 steps each day, with only 7 percent reaching that goal. Younger children, aged 5–11, were much more likely to walk more during their day (at around 23 percent).
The Australian Health Survey found that young adults achieved the highest level of activity of all adults, with 53 percent of 18–24-year-olds being classed as sufficiently active.
People tend to become less active as they age. The lowest level of activity was among those aged 75 or over, with that group achieving around 20 minutes of activity each day.
People were more likely to have done sufficient exercise if they:
- were wealthier
- classified their health as ‘excellent’
- were in the underweight or normal range of body mass index, rather than the obese range
- did not smoke or had given up smoking
- did not have a job where they sat down a lot, such as clerical or administrative work
- watched less television and used the internet less than average (13 hours and 9 hours per week, respectively).
Adults took an average of 7,400 steps per day. Less than one in five adults took 10,000 steps each day.
How can you save your health from the dangers of sitting?
If you’re not getting enough activity in your day, it’s not too late to turn it around and gain great health benefits in the process.
Build more activity into your day
Some ways you can incorporate activity into your day are:
- Walk or cycle, and leave the car at home.
- For longer trips, walk or cycle part of the way.
- Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, or at least walk up the escalator.
- Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
- Park further away from wherever you’re going and walk the rest of the way.
- Calculate how long it takes you to walk one kilometer – you may find you can reach your destination faster by walking than if you wait for public transport.
Be active (and safe)
If you’re new to physical activity, or if you have a health condition, speak to your doctor before you start any new activities. They can help you decide the best activities for you.
If you’re getting active outdoors, remember to protect yourself from the sun by applying sunscreen and wearing sun-protective clothing, including a hat.
Be active at work
You can move around at work more than you think:
- Take the stairs instead of the lift.
- Walk over and talk to your colleagues instead of emailing them.
- Take your lunch break away from your desk and enjoy a short walk outside if you can.
- Organize walking meetings.
Be active indoors
Don’t let bad weather stop you from being active! You can do bodyweight exercises such as squats, sit-ups, and lunges.
You can also try indoor activities such as:
- Swimming at an indoor pool
- martial arts
- indoor rock climbing.
Reduce your sedentary behavior
Here are some simple ideas to keep you moving while you’re at home:
- When you’re tidying up, put items away in small trips rather than taking them together.
- Set the timer on your television to turn off an hour earlier than usual to remind you to get up and move.
- Walk around when you’re on the phone.
- Stand up and do some ironing during your favorite television shows.
- Rather than sitting down to read, listen to recorded books while you walk, clean, or work in the garden.
- Stand on public transport, or get off one stop early and walk to your destination.
If you work in an office:
- Stand up while you read emails or reports.
- Move your rubbish bin away from your desk so you have to get up to throw anything away.
- Use the speakerphone for conference calls and walk around the room during the calls.
Benefits of regular physical activity
If you are regularly physically active, you may:
- reduce your risk of a heart attack
- Manage your weight better
- have a lower blood cholesterol level
- lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- have lower blood pressure
- have stronger bones, muscles, and joints and lower risk of developing osteoporosis
- Lower your risk of falls
- recover better from periods of hospitalization or bed rest
- feel better – with more energy, a better mood, feel more relaxed, and sleep better.
A number of studies have found that exercise helps depression.
There are many views as to how exercise helps people with depression:
- Exercise may block negative thoughts or distract you from daily worries.
- Exercising with others provides an opportunity for increased social contact.
- Increased fitness may lift your mood and improve your sleep patterns.
- Exercise may also change levels of chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin, endorphins, and stress hormones.
To maintain health and reduce your risk of health problems, health professionals and researchers recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day
Physical activity guidelines:
- Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
- Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
- Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
- Do muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
Increases in daily activity can come from small changes made throughout your day, such as walking or cycling instead of using the car, getting off a tram, train, or bus a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way, or walking the children to school. Ways to increase physical activity
Do we really need to take 10,000 steps a day?
Regular walking produces many health benefits, including reducing our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. We often hear 10,000 as the golden number of steps to strive for in a day.
It is a good idea to see your doctor before starting your physical activity program if:
- You are aged over 45 years
- Physical activity causes pain in your chest
- You often faint or have spells of severe dizziness
- moderate physical activity makes you very breathless
- You are at a higher risk of heart disease
- Do you think you might have heart disease or you have heart problems
- You are pregnant.
Over the past few years, prolonged sitting has emerged as a new health scourge. Sitting is the new smoking, headlines warn. But even as awareness of the problem grows, proposed solutions like regular activity breaks and adjustable-height desks have run into a stubborn problem: workplace culture. Sitt’s experience convinced him that psychology is as important as physiology in the fight against sedentary behavior, and spurred him to launch a new program tackling the problem on an organizational, rather than personal, scale.
The list of ills associated with hours of uninterrupted sitting includes an elevated risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions, which occur as your muscles switch into a “dormant” mode that compromises their ability to break down fats and sugars. Crucially, exercising before or after work isn’t enough to counteract these effects – sitting all day is harmful no matter how fit and active you are.
Knowing may be half the battle, but the other half (actually doing something about it) is the hard part. In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in January, researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia tried a multi-pronged approach to figure out the best ways to prompt behavior change in office groups.
The study compared three groups of university employees who typically spent more than six hours out of every eight-hour day sitting. One group received adjustable-height desks; the second received the desks along with ongoing individual and organizational-level guidance; the third group received no instructions and served as the control group.
After three months, the desks-only group had reduced their sitting time by a modest 33 minutes compared to the controls, while the desks-plus-guidance group dropped 89 minutes, getting close to the 50-50 sit-stand split recommended by the researchers.
The additional support included face-to-face coaching and goal-setting, group brainstorming sessions on ways to reduce sitting time, regular e-mail reminders, and consultation with managers.
“Changing sitting habits may not be as simple as providing new desks,” lead researcher Maike Neuhaus said. “Sitting habits are ingrained in office routines, and we found that workers acting alone may feel awkward when standing during meetings or at their desk.”
Sitt, a former personal trainer, reached the same conclusion while struggling to rehabilitate his back. He saw a dramatic improvement in his overall health once he established a routine of taking five or six one-minute breaks each day to perform simple exercises at his desk, so he decided to launch a program to encourage others to do the same.
The key barrier, he realized, wasn’t the time commitment, which is less than 10 minutes a day, but getting a critical mass of people doing similar things, so he aimed his MOVE program at employers rather than employees. The nine-week intervention starts with one-on-one consultations, then assigns a range of simple exercises and stretches for one-minute breaks, and includes a weekly half-hour lunch workshop.
An initial pilot project with 10 employees at the charity Free the Children produced improvements in a range of assessment measures, including strength (as measured by push-ups) and flexibility (sit-and-reach test), as well as less tangible measures like energy and fatigue levels.
The pilot data also confirmed that the biggest barrier to adherence was feeling awkward about doing the movement breaks around other employees not participating in the program.
Given the costs associated with sedentary behavior – one study estimated that the least active employees are less productive by about three hours per week – this all-too-common workplace culture is something that employers would be wise to address. Change is hard, but Neuhaus’s research shows that getting the whole office involved with a formal program makes a difference.
In other words, sitting resembles “the new smoking” in yet another way: Quitting is way easier when you’re not the only one doing it.
Ways Sitting is Shortening Your Life
According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which looked at more than 4 million individuals and 68,936 cancer cases, sitting for long periods of time increases your risk for colon, endometrial, and possibly, lung cancer. The study found that even in physically active individuals, sitting increased the risk, and the risk worsened with each two-hour increase in sitting time.
Separate research links long-term sedentary habits with breast and colon cancer.
Frequent Sitters Have a Greater Risk of Developing Heart Disease
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that men and women who sat more than six hours a day died earlier than their counterparts who limited sitting time to 3 hours a day or less. The study surveyed 53,440 men and 69,776 women who were healthy at the start of the study and over the course of the 14-year follow-up, they saw a higher rate of mortality among the frequent sitters. “Associations were strongest for cardiovascular disease mortality. The time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level,” the study says.
Sitting Increases the Risk of Obesity
It’s widely known that exercise and a healthy diet are two major factors in maintaining a healthy weight, but there is a third important factor for weight control, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic—moving throughout the day. In a study on weight gain and loss, where every aspect of diet and exercise was controlled in a lab, the researchers added 1,000 calories to all the subject’s daily diets.
None of the people were permitted to exercise, but some people in the study were able to maintain their weight, while others gained weight. The researchers couldn’t understand why some were able to avoid gaining weight without exercise. How did they keep from gaining weight? Those who maintained their weight did so by unintentionally moving more throughout the day. Prolonged Sitting Increases the Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
Sitting for extended periods affects blood sugar levels and insulin in the body, meaning not only are sedentary people more likely to be obese, but they are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. An article published in Diabetologia examined the results of 18 studies with nearly 800,000 participants and determined that those who sat the most were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as the individuals who sat least.
Frequent Sitters are Susceptible to Muscular Issues
Muscles are healthiest when they are being used and challenged on a regular basis, so it’s not surprising that staying seated for eight or nine hours a day might bring some negative repercussions. Muscles are pliable but when locked in a sitting position for the majority of the day, every day, they do get stiff. After years of constantly sitting the body is used to sitting and not as proficient at running, jumping, or even standing. Researchers believe this might be part of the reason elderly people have such a hard time getting around later in life.
Constant Sitting Interferes with LPL
LPL or lipoprotein lipase is an enzyme that breaks down fat and uses it as energy when the enzyme isn’t working as it should, that fat is stored. In a study published in The Journal of Physiology, mice were tested for LPL levels in three states—laying down for most of the day, standing for most of the day, and exercising. LDL activity in the laying mice was very low, levels rose more than 10 times when the mice simply stood but the exercise had no additional effects on the LDL levels in the mice’s legs.
The researchers expect the results to carry over to humans too. The larger point is that people can’t combat the effects of sitting with a half-hour or hour of exercise alone—standing throughout the day is the answer.
Sedentary Habits are Associated with Higher Risk of Developing Depression
With hours and hours of sitting associated with higher sickness and mortality rates, who wouldn’t be depressed? The news is both terrifying and disheartening, but knowing about the risks isn’t the reason frequent sitters are more often depressed. Researchers say since sitting reduces circulation it’s harder for “feel-good hormones” to make their way to receptors.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine followed 9,000 middle-aged women and determined that those who sat longer and did not meet minimum exercise requirements suffered from depression at much higher rates compared with the women who sat less and exercised more. When it came to sitting, those who sat for more than seven hours a day were 47 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those who sat four hours or fewer.
On the exercise front, women who didn’t exercise at all had a 99 percent higher risk of developing depression than those who met minimum exercise requirements. Researchers concluded physical activity could alleviate depression symptoms and likely prevent future symptoms.
Well, the evidence seems to be overwhelming. Sitting for long periods of time can be hazardous to your health, the same as smoking:
This is a case where I doubt if we will be going through any withdrawal symptoms if we choose not to sit for lengthy periods of time.
Many people and offices are switching to standing computer desks.
We can do this a little bit at a time. Practice different positions when sitting. Walk, stand, and think about getting into a regular exercise routine. I know I have to.
Some Yoga Poses For You To Consider: YouTube Videos. Please click on the link:
Thank you for reading.
Comments are welcome.