The Health Risks of Sitting Too Much

If you kept a diary of how much you sit each day, you’d probably be surprised. When you take into account the time spent in front of the computer, the television, and relaxing while eating a meal – it really adds up. A new Australian study looked at the effects of sitting too much on health and the risk of disease – and the results aren’t encouraging.

Sitting Too Much May Be Deadly

sitting too muchMost Americans berate themselves for not spending enough time walking or working out at the gym, but simple changes such as spending less time sitting can also have positive benefits. Australian researchers found that sitting too much was associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some kinds of cancer. Even more disturbing – chronic sitters had a higher risk of dying prematurely from any cause.

How Does Too Much Sitting Lead to Problems?

The researchers believe that sitting too much leads to changes in enzymes responsible for metabolizing blood fats. They’re focusing on one in particular called lipoprotein lipase, although they’re not sure of the exact mechanism. They did point out that for every hour a person sits in front of the television set they increase their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 25%. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease – two of the most common diseases in America that lead to an early death.

An Exercise Program Doesn’t Compensate for Too Much Sitting

The researchers were quick to point out that heading to the gym for a thirty-minute workout may not be enough to offset the effects of sitting too much. Thirty minutes or even an hour jogging on the treadmill may not make up for long hours spent glued to a chair during the day. They point out the importance of breaking up time spent at a desk or in front of the T.V. by getting up and walking around. They also suggest spending less time driving and more time walking to destinations whenever possible.

Make Yourself Accountable

There’s a good chance that you may be sitting too much and not even know it. One way to find out is to keep a diary for a few weeks – making note of what you’re doing throughout the day. Once you’re aware of how much time you’re spending sitting, make it a point to take short breaks where you walk around your home or office or go up and down the stairs a few times. Another option is to set an alarm to go off every half-hour while you’re working at your desk or office – reminding yourself to get up and move around. Television commercials are the perfect time to take a walking break.

Too Much Sitting: The Bottom Line

This study suggests that sitting too much may be an independent risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity – irrespective of time spent formally exercising. Become more aware of how much you’re sitting and take more walking breaks.

By Dr. Kristie

Can physical activity offset the health risks of too much sitting?
Sitting Time, Physical Activity, and Risk of Mortality in Adults