Cutting edge medical research is examining the health consequences of sitting all day and how it can be hazardous to your health. Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer Heidi Peterson of Rockwood Clinic answers some questions about sitting- and she will make you want to get up and move for better health.
Q: Why is it a bad idea to sit all day?
Heidi Peterson: Two hours a day of sitting in front of the TV or computer may double your risk of a heart attack or other cardiac event. Four hours a day of screen time increases your risk of death by any cause by 50%, according to findings of a study of more than 4,500 middle-aged men in Scotland.
Q: What are some of the long-term consequences of sitting most of the day?
Heidi Peterson: Prolonged bouts of sitting time and lack of whole-body muscular movement are strongly associated with obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease risk and cancer, as well as total mortality independent of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity.
Q: What can a person do to improve the situation?
Heidi Peterson: Get up and move regularly, don't stay at your desk, take your 10-minute and lunch breaks as an opportunity to move. Use a pedometer to track your steps (10,000 per day recommended, stand whenever you can - while on the phone, speaking with coworkers, at meetings, etc. Play active video games rather than seated games. Use screen alerts or your Outlook to give you regular reminders to get up, stretch, march in place, etc. Take every opportunity to move more!
Q: What's the best thing you can do if you have a desk job or some other sedentary job?
Heidi Peterson: Take regular "movement breaks" every 20 - 30 minutes - in other words, get up and move around throughout the day. Two-Minute Walk Breaks Improve Glucose Control and Insulin Response. Walking at light or moderate intensity for two minutes after each 20 minutes of sitting helps maintain glucose control and insulin response. There may be good benefits in developing habits of getting up more frequently during the workday and at home while video gaming, watching television or using the computer.
Q: What if you're in good physical shape, does that make a difference?
The American Cancer Society's Cancer II study of more than 100,000 healthy people tracked since 1992 found that women who sit for more than six hours during their leisure time each day had a 37% greater chance of death than women who sat for three hours or less. Men had an 18% greater chance of death. This finding was independent of whether the people got in a good dose of exercise each day. However, the good news is that those who also got exercise had a lower risk of death than those who didn't -- just not enough to overcome the presumed effects of the sitting hours. An editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that "recent observational studies have suggested that prolonged bouts of sitting time and lack of whole-body muscular movement are strongly associated with obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease risk and cancer, as well as total mortality independent of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity," say the authors.