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I had no idea.
Of course I know that it’s good to be active and that living a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy. But I had no idea that sitting (yes, plain old sitting: in a chair, in a car, at a desk, in front of the TV and so on) is incredibly bad for your health.
Modern humans spend more time sitting than sleeping, which is so different from our ancestors of even a hundred years ago. And our bodies weren’t designed for it.
In his book, Eat Move Sleep, author Tom Rath makes a strong case for sitting as little as possible, even going so far as to say that “Sitting more than 6 hours a day greatly increases your risk of an early death.” That’s a pretty bold statement. Let’s see some facts to back it up.
The minute you sit down:
But wait–there’s more!
After two hours of sitting, good cholesterol is reduced by 20%.
Sitting for extended periods causes spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which over time can lead to diabetes. (However, just 2 minutes of walking every 20 minutes is enough to counteract this effect.)
Research has shown that when prolonged pressure is applied to specific areas of the body, the body produces 50% more fat in that area. It’s no surprise then, that people who spend a lot of time sitting develop larger bottoms.
Even people who spend an hour exercising each day put their health at risk if they sit for prolonged periods.
Sitting in conjunction with TV viewing presents additional health risks. Research shows that people who spend more than 4 hours a day watching TV are over twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who spend less than 2 hours watching TV.
So what’s the solution?
Here are some suggestions:
I’ve already taken some of this advice to heart. While writing this article I took more breaks than I normally would. I went up and down the basement steps several times to throw clothes in the washer and dryer. I took a quick walk to the library to return a book and another quick walk to buy some milk. (If you don’t live in a city and/or work from home, you can find other excuses to get up and out: like walking a dog, putting something in the mailbox, making a coffee run for your coworkers, etc.) All of those were things that could have waited until tomorrow, but I used them as an excuse to be more active—today.
Tom Rath, Eat Move Sleep, Missionday, 2013
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