After just 30 minutes of sitting your metabolism and the enzymes that help you burn fat slow to a halt, good cholesterol plummets and the muscles in your lower body turn off.
Our risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and chronic back pain all go up along with the number of hours we spend sitting each day, recent studies show.
Reducing the time you spend sitting, on the other hand, literally adds years to your life.
The emerging research on the hazards of our sedentary modern lifestyles, led Mayo Clinic professor James Levine to coin the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” in 2013.
“We are sitting ourselves to death,” he told the LA Times, “The chair is out to kill us.”
The average American adult spends around 10 hours a day sitting — at a desk, in the car and on the couch.
That number goes up to 12 hours a day in adults over age 45, the new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.
It doesn’t matter how many hours you spend at the gym — the authors of the new study say — it won’t undo the damage caused by sitting at a desk all day.
“You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise,” Katy Bowman, scientist and author of the book: Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement, told Reuters.
That’s because “marathon sitting” sessions change your body’s metabolism.
“Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting,” says Gavin Bradley, director of Active Working, an international group aimed at reducing excessive sitting, explains part of the process.
The enzymes that help you burn fat, slow down, he says. The muscles in your lower body turn off. And after two hours, good cholesterol drops 20 percent.
“Just getting up for five minutes is going to get things going again. These things are so simple they’re almost stupid.”
“Sit less, move more,” is what the American Heart Association encourages all of us to do. But this simplistic guideline doesn’t cut it, said Keith Diaz, lead author of the new study and an associate research scientist in the Columbia University Department of Medicine.
“This would be like telling someone to just ‘exercise’ without telling them how,” Diaz told CNN.
“We think a more specific guideline could read something like, ‘For every 30 consecutive minutes of sitting, stand up and move/walk for five minutes at brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting,’ ” he said.
Those who sat for more than 13 hours a day had a 2-fold greater risk of death compared to those who sat for less than 11 hours per day.
“Bout duration is a little trickier,” said Diaz.
Those who typically sat in stretches less than 30 minutes had a 55% lower risk of death compared to people who usually sat for more than 30 minutes at a time.
People who usually sat for more than 90 minutes straight had a two-fold greater risk of early death than those who almost always sat for less than 90-minute stretches, he said.
StartStanding.org has a list of tips for developing a movement-based lifestyle:
- Drink a lot of water. Besides being a good habit, it will make you get up and walk to the bathroom often. And use a bathroom that’s furthest away..
- Go to a colleague’s desk if you have a question as opposed to sending them an email.
- Have walking meetings.
- Set an alarm on your phone or computer to stand or move every 20 minutes.
- Park further from the entrance.
- If you take public transportation, get off one stop early and walk further.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Consider an exercise ball instead of a chair.
- Consider a standing desk