There are several serious health risks that most adults already know. There’s are serious risks associated with obesity, smoking, addictions to many well-known substances (alcohol, illegal drugs, etc.) and exposure to various illnesses and carcinogenic substances. However, health officials are considering adding a new concern to our list of problematic behaviors: Prolonged sitting.
This brings health officials (and the general public) to weigh in on the following questions: How long do you have to sit each day for this to be deemed too long (or prolonged) and how dangerous is sitting?
These are reasonable questions and the answers fall mostly in the category of common sense. Many office workers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, telephone marketers and many others sit throughout their working day. Many others spend hours each day sitting and watching television or engaged in some activity on a computer. However, how long people sit and the risks associated with that can be put on a scale, rather than declaring a solid number. Certainly, sitting eight hours each day is concerning. However, if you sit eight hours each day, but those who use a bicycle to commute to their jobs or school and exercise daily and eat right will have less to worry about.
Without exercise, you could be in trouble. An analysis of several studies found that sitting eight hours per day with no exercise was the equivalent in terms of life expectancy as smoking or obesity. This makes sitting a national health concern.
There is a direct correlation between sitting and weight gain and a correlation between sitting and muscle loss. These factors are clear. By extension, then, there is a link between sitting and cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This certainly makes prolonged sitting a potential concern.
Further, it turns out that many people sit for longer – sometimes much longer – than eight hours a day. Many people sit at their jobs, sit down for lunch, sit in their car to commute and sit down to dinner and television in the evening. Ten or eleven hours a day of sitting is not uncommon.
There are also studies that show that sitting extended periods every day can bring on depression and anxiety. These studies show there is a difference in the quality of sitting. Those who sit and watch television tend to be more depressed and anxious than those who sit and read or study or somehow engage their minds with games or other diversions.
What is the answer to this epidemic of sedentary lifestyles? The answer is within reach and it can be free and very portable. It’s called exercise.
You can exercise without joining a gym. You can walk, jog, take up a sport, or do calisthenics in your living room. You can do jumping jacks and sit-ups or push-ups with minimal space and no equipment at all. Of course, gyms are great options, too.
Studies indicate that an hour to an hour and a half or moderate exercise – raising your heart rate for about half of this time – would counteract the effects of sitting eight hours each day.
In our modern society, it is certainly impossible for many people to avoid sitting for long periods of time. Work is work. School is school. Many activities are accomplished while sitting down. It’s unavoidable.
If this defines your life, reach for the antidote: Move about, exercise, raise your heart rate a minimum of five times a week for at least 20 minutes to an hour. Get some fresh air – sweat a little. It will do you a world of good.
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