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The Risk of Sitting

posted Feb 24, 2017, 8:31 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Feb 24, 2017, 8:44 AM ]
We know that exercise is good for us, but what about the risks of sitting too long. New research has shown that sitting for longer than 8 hours has negative health outcomes even if you exercise. If you think about it, 30 minutes of exercise can't possible undo 8 hours of just sitting. This doesn’t mean you are doomed if you have a sedentary job, it just means you have to find ways to incorporate movement into your day, along with 30-60 minutes/day of exercise. 

Today 60-80% of the world’s population is sedentary, according the World Health Organization. This is an increase of 83% since the 1950’s and is mainly due to technology. While technology is good in many ways it can be harmful to our health. The ill effects of sitting too long can lead to the impaired ability of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) to remove plaque from the arteries increasing the risk of heart disease; it also can reduce insulin sensitivity because of decreased muscle contractions, which raises the risk of type 2 diabetes. Finally, sitting too long decreases the body’s ability to deposit fat from the blood stream to the body leading to increased risk of heart disease due to the elevated amount of fats circulating in the blood.

But there are ways to counteract the sedentary jobs that many people have nowadays. At work you can go for a walk at breaks and at lunch. Try standing and stretching at your desk at least every hour. You can also take the stairs, walk to a coworker’s desk instead of emailing or calling, stand up to make phone calls. Try taking the long way to the restroom, or doing a lap around the office. There are even bike desks, treadmill desks and standing desks that keep you moving during the day. 

At home, take electronic breaks frequently and schedule them on your electronic device. Many families have electronic free times where the family “unplugs,” use this unplugged time to exercise together. Try taking family walks after dinner, or walking up and down escalators instead of riding them, or walking faster when doing errands. Click here for more ideas, from the American College of Sports Medicine, on how to fit more movement into your day.