How many hours do you spend sitting in a chair every day? Eight hours in the office plus three hours in front of the TV after work is the norm for many people.
You probably don’t need an expert to tell you that sitting too much is not good for your health — from an increased risk of heart disease and obesity in the long term, to reduced cholesterol maintenance in the short term, not to mention the strain on your neck and spine.
To make matters worse, a growing body of research suggests that the negative effects of sitting too much cannot be countered with a good diet and regular exercise, according to an article in The New York Times.
The article reported that a 2010 study of nearly 9,000 Australians found that for each additional hour of television a person watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11 percent.
Another study tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The death rate for men who spent six hours or more per day sitting was about 20 percent higher than for men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher.
In other words, sitting is killing us.
Stand up for health
So what can we do about it? Health experts suggest we break up those many hours spent sitting with more hours spent standing.
The BBC and the University of Chester in the UK conducted a simple experiment with a small group of 10 volunteers who usually spent most of the day sitting. They were asked to stand for at least three hours a day. The researchers took measurements on days when the volunteers stood, and when they sat around. When they looked at the data there were some striking differences, the BBC reported on Oct 16.
Blood glucose leveled off after a meal much quicker on the days when the study subjects stood compared with the days they spent in a chair. Standing also burned more calories — about 50 calories an hour. Over the course of a year that would add up to about 30,000 extra calories, or around 3.63 kilograms of fat.
“If you want to put that into activity levels, then that would be the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year,” said John Buckley, a member of the research team. “Just by standing up three or four hours in your day at work.”
Buckley said that although doing exercise offers many proven benefits, our bodies also need the constant, almost imperceptible increase in muscle activity that standing provides. Simple movement helps us to keep our all-important blood sugar under control.
The researchers believe that even small adjustments, like standing while talking on the phone, going over to talk to a colleague rather than sending an e-mail, or simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator, will help.