Are You Guilty of “Sitting” Your Health Away? Is too Much “Sitting” the New Smoking?

You’ve probably come across the phrase; Sitting is the New Smoking … but what does the word “sitting” in this context actually mean, because after all, sitting is a perfectly natural part of life for all air-breathing creatures and if we’re going to compare something as natural and common place as sitting to smoking … well I guess I’ve got some “‘splainin” to do.

Okay, so here’s the thing, sitting isn’t unhealthy, but instead, it’s the type and the amount that can cause severe damage to our health. In fact, the wrong kind of sitting can be so damaging that even if you religiously exercise for forty-five minutes a day, five days a week, as the Surgeon General advises, prolonged periods of sitting can lead to long-term debilitating health.

Consider this diagram.

As you can see, for this hypothetical “physically active” adult, a forty-five-minute exercise session of brisk walking before work ensures that the recommended amount of exercise is achieved. However, this person then sits during the drive to work, before lunch, during lunch, at the computer after lunch, during the drive home, at dinner, and while watching TV. In fact, 95 percent of their hours are spent sitting. That much sitting has unique and damaging health implications entirely distinct from people getting “too little” exercise.

So Why is Prolonged, Uninterrupted Sitting So Damaging

Research shows that vital enzymes in your leg’s blood vessels, which are responsible for siphoning fat out of the blood, virtually shut off when you’re in the seated position.

When sitting for long periods, the following happens:

  • Electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off.
  • Calorie-burning drops.
  • Enzymes that help break down fat drop 90%.
  • After two hours, good cholesterol (HDL) drops 20%.
  • After four hours of sitting, the body triggers our immune system to attack our bodies by increasing inflammation resulting in swollen fat cells and increased fat and sugar in the bloodstream.

In one extraordinary experiment, Danish researchers paid a group of healthy young men to spend most of their day just sitting and restrict themselves to a maximum of 1500 steps a day for two whole weeks. Incredibly after just two weeks, they added an average of 7% more visceral fat to their organs, as indicated by the arrows in the Before and After photos.

And get this, as they gained this extra-dangerous organ fat, they also begin to exhibit the classic signs of inflammation, including insulin resistance.

But let’s be clear, this gain in visceral fat wasn’t caused by sitting alone, but rather the result of sitting and inactivity.

So, given that many of us have jobs that require long stretches of sitting, what can we do to avoid this dire accumulation of organ fat?

The solution is actually pretty simple. Avoid extended stretches of sitting by regularly interrupting your sitting posture.

In fact, researchers have found that just two minutes every half hour results in lower levels of sugar, fat and so-called bad cholesterol in the blood and muscles. Periodic movement, especially in the calves, act as pumps to prevent blood and other fluids from building up in the legs, not just in veins, but also in the lymph system, which is crucial to health because the lymph system … which functions as a series of gutters … can transport waste throughout the entire body.

So that initial expression, “Sitting is the New Smoking” is no joke.

Long stretches of sitting will seriously damage our health. Fortunately, the fix is pretty easy, provided you make it a habit to get out of your chair for a quick stretch and short walk every thirty minutes … and to be safe … why not make it every twenty, because after all, our ability to focus begins to wane after as little as ten minutes anyway.

So give yourself a double gift, move a little more often, and you’ll keep both your body and mind functioning at peak capacity.

Thanks for reading; I appreciate your being here.


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