Sitting is the new smoking

Say what? You might want to stand up for this — sitting could be taking years off your life.

Say what? You might want to stand up for this — sitting could be taking years off your life. Evidence now supports the implication that long periods of inactivity could be doing serious damage to your health — even for people who regularly work out. In other words, it’s becoming a habit that may be just as dangerous as smoking.

“Prolonged sitting has been shown to result in a 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause,” said Robin Curry, M.D., primary care sports medicine physician with Norton Orthopaedic Specialists – Brownsboro.

As if that’s not scary enough, Dr. Curry explains how sitting for a significant period of time affects our whole body and overall wellness.

“Prolonged sitting can affect multiple organ systems in significant ways,” Dr. Curry said. “The most harmful effect is probably on the cardiovascular system.”

Staying seated for long hours can trigger the following:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides
  • Decreased HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Increased risk of chest pain or a heart attack
  • Decreased circulation in your legs, which may lead to varicose veins or even blood clots

But it’s not just your heart that is feeling the effects of your desk job, couch potato status or computer addiction. Your muscles, bones and even mood can be greatly affected by your level of daily activity.

“Moving muscles keep blood and oxygen traveling to the brain and help trigger the release of mood-enhancing chemicals,” Dr. Curry said. “Without this release, there is an increased risk of depression.”

Some studies have even linked excessive sitting to an increased risk for colon, breast and endometrial cancers.

For those who think their daily workouts are enough to counteract the harmful effects of sitting, think again. Even regular exercise may not be enough. According to Dr. Curry, you need to increase your daily non-exercise activity.

Consider these tips to get moving at work:

  • Stand up at your desk or walk down the hallway every 30 to 60 minutes
  • Sit on an exercise ball or backless stool, which will activate your core muscles
  • Alternate between sitting and standing at your desk
  • Take the stairs to get from one floor to the next
  • Instead of emailing or calling co-workers, walk to their office
  • Park your car away from the door

Making a conscious effort to move during your work day can have ripple effects toward better health. So stand up for your health and get moving for a longer, healthier life.


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