For the past several years, researchers have published results showing that a sedentary lifestyle is actually just as unhealthy as smoking (Sitting is the New Smoking, 2017). In fact they claim that the average American sits for a whopping 13 hours every day. And since that’s an average, that means some days are less, but some days we are sitting even more than 13 hours. We are actually spending more time daily sitting than we do sleeping. Clearly there are going to be those days when someone we love is in the hospital and we sit there all day waiting for an update. But this research isn’t actually referring to what we do occasionally, but rather our DAILY activities, or lack thereof! Six hours of sitting will counteract the benefits of a full hour of continuous exercise.
National health organizations such as England’s NHS (National Health Service) has documented, published proof that prolonged sitting causes many health related problems including, but not limited to, slowed metabolism, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and premature death. The research also shows that sitting more than 6 hours daily increases your likelihood of dying within the next 15 years by 40% or more. Sitting uninterrupted, combined with little to no exercise can double your risk of heart failure, increase your risk of depression by 47% to 99%, cause insomnia and even arthritis, but perhaps the biggest risk of all is for blood clots (10 Minutes of Intermittent Movement for Every Hour of Sitting, 2014). Sadly, these risks do not decrease no matter how much you exercise before or after the prolonged sitting occurs. Intermittent movement is necessary in addition to, rather than as a replacement for, regular exercise.
New research now reveals that exercising once, or even twice per day will not undo the negative health repercussions of prolonged sitting. You can’t just sit at a desk all day, and workout at the gym on the way home, and undo all the damage. The secret to better health lies, not in just exercising more, but in intermittent movement throughout the day. Some fitness trackers allow you to set an alarm so that the device vibrates ten minutes before the top of every hour if it hasn’t recorded at least 250 steps during that hour. This is one way to remind yourself to get up and move periodically. While many people struggle to walk the recommended 10,000 steps per day, if you walk just a few minutes out of every hour, it is easy to accumulate 1,000 steps per hour, and over a ten hour day, your goal is crushed!
They have all these new gadgets and gizmos swarming the marketplace that allow you to work while being active. There are desks that can be raised or lowered so you can either sit or stand and still do your work. There are treadmill desks that allow you to walk while working. There are even bicycle devices that fit under your desk that allow you to pedal while you work. But while all of these types of solutions may increase your activity, there is another component that still needs to be addressed. The roots of the problem lie in cellular degeneration. Blood flow to the legs is impaired by more than 50% after just one hour of continuous sitting. Impairment to endothelial function is also significantly impaired by just one hour of sitting uninterrupted. Scientist are now linking autoimmune disorders to prolonged sitting and the inflammatory response of your immune system.
Another interesting discovery is that when you sit for long periods, fat accumulates around your internal organs, in places not necessarily visible in the mirror. This fat, called visceral fat, is greatly associated with early mortality (premature death). This fat is not the same as subcutaneous fat, famous for cellulite and love handles! Visceral fat is also the type that builds up in your arteries, causing blockages and impeding blood flow even more. So even if you maintain a healthy body weight, you can accumulate fat around your heart, in your liver, and in or around other vital organs, the results of which can be fatal.
Your brain will also benefit from a quick saunter down the hall. In fact, neuroscience recommends 50 minutes of work, followed by 10 minutes of movement, or a maximum of an hour and a half of work followed by 15 minutes of movement. (10 Minutes of Intermittent Movement for Every Hour of Sitting, 2014) The movement forces synapses in your brain to fire to communicate to your muscles in a way that just isn’t possible when sitting for prolonged periods of time. And these electrical communications keep pathways clear of debris that can eventually build into plaque, known to cause dementia and Alzheimer’s. On those days when you just can’t seem to get that report finished, get up and take a walk. It will actually help with your creative process.