Is Sitting Really the New Smoking?

By Unni Greene, Certified Master Trainer

“Sometimes I just sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.”
Who knew that these words immortalized by Winnie the Pooh should have come with a warning. 

There has been much talk in the news lately about the risk of too much sitting. In fact, the downside of over-sitting has been compared with the risks of smoking. Can too much of something as simple as sitting truly affect your health.

Let’s take a look at the research.

Sitting in excess of two hours a day has been linked to the increase in obesity and metabolic syndrome – a precursor to diabetes that includes increased blood pressure, insulin resistance, excess belly fat, and elevated cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In a recent study people who sat for two hours per day were compared to those who sat for more than four hours per day. The individuals who sat longer had

• A nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause

• About a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack. 

The increased risk was separate from other traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking or high blood pressure. Indeed, these findings parallel those of comparing non-smokers to smokers. 

While many of us have sedentary lifestyles that include sitting in a car, sitting at a desk, and sitting in front of a TV or monitor, there are some simple way steps to mitigate the dangers of too much sitting.

Some people swear by the practice of using “stand up” desks to ward off the risks of prolonged sitting. But for others who are less inclined to stand all day – especially if you work in call-center cubicle – there are many other more traditional alternatives.  

Research shows that a healthy balance of desk work and physical activity can be achieved by engaging in a moderately intense exercise program, 60 to 75 minutes per day. Such a routine may serve to significantly reduce the risk of death associated with sitting more than eight hours a day. And it doesn’t have to be all about crunches and push-ups. Taking a long walk or biking for an hour on most days would be an easy way to meet this goal. While exercising an hour a day is a big time commitment, it is well worth the investment, since the benefits include not just weight loss but feeling better, sleeping better, and living longer! (Please note that eating inordinate scoops of honey like a Pooh Bear did not make the list.)

Good luck and good health. 

Unni Greene is a 

Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Master Trainer. For more information, contact Unni at SoMi Fitness 305-669-1997 or somifitness@gmail.com. 

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