It sounds counterintuitive, but regular exercise does not protect you from the hazards of prolonged sitting. Even if you go to the gym several times a week and are fit, it is not enough, according to James A. Levine, MD, author of Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.
“You still need to be active throughout the day,” says Levine. “The more you do, the more benefit you get.”
A bout of activity in the morning or evening does not reverse the ill effects that sitting for hours a day has on your body.
“Hours of inactivity are associated with causing diabetes, hypertension, even cancer,” explains Leanne Martin and Judie Jones, Fitness Trainers at Goshen Physicians Center for Weight Reduction.
The trainers recommend standing as much as possible.
What happens when we sit too much
The average American office worker sits 13 to 15 hours a day. Our body’s fundamental fueling systems get switched off when we sit for a prolonged amount of time.
Consequently, people who sit too much have high blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Toxins also are elevated, which lead to cancer, particularly breast cancer. At least 24 chronic diseases and conditions are associated with excess sitting, according to Dr. Levine.
The solution? Get up!
Simply carrying your bodyweight on your legs sets off a cascade of activities that impact what’s going on in the bloodstream, muscles and tissues. Within 90 seconds of getting off your bottom, your body’s systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol go into action.
More than a workout routine
Studies show that people in farming villages sit for about three hours a day. They rest after a hard morning’s work, then get back on their legs to go into the fields again. That’s when the body’s system pushes fuel into muscles so they can work. Until 200 years ago, the nature of the human body was to be active and moving all day, according to Levine.
“The body was never designed to be crammed into a chair where all of these cellular mechanisms get switched off,” said Levine.
Levine believes the unnatural sitting posture is bad for your back, wrists, arms and your metabolism.
“If you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting for too long,” says Levine. “We should all be up at least 10 minutes out of every hour.”
Martin and Jones recommend standing or stretching at your desk every hour for 10 to 15 minutes.
Your goal? Sit less than three hours a day.
For more information about the causes and consequences of obesity, contact Goshen Physicians Center for Weight Reduction.