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Sitting Can be Dangerous to Your Health [UPDATED]

UPDATED: Working Out Won’t Undo the Effects of Sitting All Day (July 19, 2010)

How is this for horrifying health news: Sitting in a chair for most of the day puts you at risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and an early death. And, it’s more than one new study that has validated these claims.

I know what you’re thinking: “Well, I work out and eat right, so I have nothing to worry about.” If that’s all it took, then this news would not be particularly horrifying. The shocking part of the findings is that this applies to everyone.

The first reason for this is the most obvious. Sitting down, aside from sleeping, is about the most passive thing you can do. Even little things like chewing gum will increase your calorie burning. Standing in place can also burn calories, as you will tend to tense your leg muscles, shift your legs, and engage the muscles in your upper body.

Much of what will increase the slow creep of incremental weight gain from year to year is based upon the small decisions that you make. This can be remedied by walking the stairs instead of taking the elevator, or parking your car in the fourth row of spots instead of the rock star parking that opened up in front of the building.

To prove this point, a study of junior doctors who did the same job found that some of them walked four times the distance than others at work each day. While none of the subjects in the study were overweight, the doctors who walked a little more were thinner than the others.

So, here’s the worst part of the new research: Sitting for long periods of time isn’t just about not burning calories, it’s actively working against your health. A study that examined people who sit for long periods of time found that those who took frequent small breaks had smaller waistlines and better health profiles for sugar and fat metabolism than those who have long, uninterrupted strings of sitting down. This includes doing things like standing up to stretch or walking down the hall to chat with a favorite co-worker.

In essence, it now pays to be a little ADD.

Make changes to your sit-all-day habits:

  • Get up from your chair at least once per hour, even for a quick stretch or office yoga
  • Walk to co-workers’ desks instead of calling or IMing
  • Replace your desk chair with a yoga ball
  • Request a standing desk
  • Consider a treadmill desk for a home office
  • Wear a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps per day, at least

(via: The New York Times)

March 5th, 2010

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