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Why Sitting Will Kill You

Mar 21, 2011

One of the most interesting research findings that came out this last year brought one of the basic facts about modern society into question. It didn’t have anything to do with eating too much Mickey D’s or watching too much reality TV (well, not directly). You can watch as much reality TV as you please—just get your butt off the couch. Whatever your particular vice, just do it standing up, and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.

The fatwa against sitting came out of research done by the American Cancer Society on over 120,000 adults over a 13 year span. The study followed the adults and monitored their daily habits, as well as the diseases they developed over those years. Even when adjusting for smoking, body mass index, and other factors, the amount of time spent sitting per day was found to have a direct and independent association with the risk of death. The risk was particularly high for ladies: those who sat for more than 6 hours a day were nearly 40% more likely to have died during the study than those who were on their bums for less than 3 hours. For men, the risk was 18% higher.

Even after adjusting for the amount of exercise people did everyday, the same correlation came up between sitting and higher likelihood of death. Those that didn’t get the recommended amount of exercise and were sitting for more than 6 hours a day, well, let’s just say that you don’t want to be one of these people. These women and men were 94% and 48% more likely to kick the bucket due to cardiovascular problems or cancer, than people who did a little jogging and were only sitting for less than 3 hours a day.

5 Ways to Sit Less During the Day

But what if your job requires you to sit for extended periods of time? Here are a few simple ways to reduce the time you spend in your seat that won’t make you quit your job to become a marathon runner, or perhaps, a professional stander.

  • Get a Standing Desk: It seems like a strange idea at first—a desk that you stand at? If you can’t imagine standing for most of your workday, well, I couldn’t either. When I first got my standing desk, it did take some adjusting. At first, I got tired and uncomfortable after using it for only an hour or two, but after a week my stamina improved. Now, I definitely feel better—my back and shoulders are less tense, and now I never get that I’m-turning-into-jello-in-my-cushy-computer-chair melting feeling. Check this one out to get an idea of what they’re like.
  • Stand During Your Commute: If you can’t revamp your workstation, you can easily shave 30 minutes to an hour off your daily sitting time just by standing up on the bus, subway, or your preferred method of public transit. Just please, don’t forget to hold onto the railing.
  • Forget the Email—Take a Walk: Instead of emailing colleagues in your office, take a short break to stand up, walk to their desk, and have a chat with them. Breaking up hours of sitting isn’t only good for your long term health, but it’ll keep your blood flowing to help keep you alert throughout the day.
  • Veg Out, Standing Up: If you’re like most people, getting home from work and sinking into the couch to watch a little TV or play some video games is a reliable way to unwind and relax. New tech, like the Wii and the Xbox 360, have games that are meant to be played standing up–and are actually a lot of fun. Whether you prefer a little Wii tennis or a some dancing via the Xbox Kinect, here’s one option for getting out of your seat that you won’t have to force yourself to do.
  • Keep Your Eyes Open For Opportunities: The key here is to look for little ways to get on your feet during the day, that can really add up over time. Small daily habits, like parking far away in the parking lot, taking the stairs, and standing while talking on the phone are easy ways to make a change.


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