How many hours a day do you sit? Be honest, please. If you work in front of a computer, we’ll bet you spend more than eight hours a day sitting. And that doesn’t count time sitting in your car, sitting while you eat or sitting in front of the television. Our ancestors were far more active. Go back a couple of generations and the chances are good our grandparents and great-grandparents were far more active than we are. My mother, for example, really did walk miles to and from school each day. She also spent hours in her garden. I, on the other hand, spend many hours writing on a computer. What are the harms of so much sitting?
How Times Have Changed in Just Two Decades!
Americans spend even more time sitting now than they did at the start of the 21st century. That is the conclusion from a study of more than 51,000 individuals, including children, teens and adults of various ages. The research was published in JAMA (April 23/30, 2019), and it shows that television viewing time of approximately two hours a day across various ages hasn’t changed all that much.
These days, people are using computers more during their leisure time. As a result, adolescents and adults both spend more time during their day sitting in front of a screen. People over 65 in particular have increased their leisure-time computer use.
Why Is Sitting So Much So Worrisome?
Sitting for many hours a day is bad for health. Some analysts have taken to calling sitting the new smoking. While that is undoubtedly an exaggeration, too much sitting appears to increase the risks of developing hypertension, high blood sugar, elevated cholesterol and premature death.
Experts say standing is only a little bit better. Many offices now come with work stations that allow people to raise their computers and work standing up. If you are not moving, however, the chances are that you won’t gain a lot by standing in one place, staring at a screen for hours on end.
What may help more is getting up and walking around every hour or half hour. Even better is incorporating regular moderate to vigorous physical activity into the day. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (April, 2019) shows that physically active people are less susceptible to the negative effects of sitting.
The authors conclude:
“Our comprehensive joint and stratified analyses on sitting, physical activity and mortality risk found that higher amounts of physical activity effectively eliminated the association of sitting time with ACM [all-cause mortality] and CVD [cardiovascular disease] mortality risk. Replacing sitting with walking and VPA [vigorous intensity physical activity] is associated with the most consistent risk reductions. Reduction of sitting time is an important strategy, ancillary to increasing physical activity, for preventing cardiovascular disease and premature mortality in physically inactive populations.”
Physical Activity: How to Incorporate It Into Your Life
We know that everyone is working too hard these days. For many people, that means sitting in front of a computer. Even if you are retired, chances are good you check your email first thing, while you are sitting. You may watch the news or a movie on your tablet. The JAMA study found that people are using their electronic devices or computers for reading, watching movies, texting or sending email.
We interviewed Dr. Jordan Metzl about finding time to exercise. Dr. Metzl is an exercise guru. If you listen to this free podcast, we hope you will be motivated to take his advice to heart. Just click on the green arrow above his photograph or download the free mp3 file.
Share your own antidote to sitting in the comment section below. How do you find time to exercise?