By Caitlin Watzke
The average American sits for 12 to 15 hours a day. That’s four to five times longer than we should be sitting, according to research showing that excessive sitting has negative health effects, even for people who exercise regularly.
“This sitting that we all do is like a common meeting point for quite a lot of chronic disease,” says Dr. James Levine, Director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University and author of the book Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.
Dr. Levine points to a recent analysis that links excessive sitting with 34 chronic diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Sitting is also associated with issues like back pain, bad posture, depression, low productivity and even breast cancer.
What to do about it
Dr. Levine says the solution isn’t going to be a few tips or tricks — it’s going to require planning, individual responsibility and the creation of a culture of movement both at home and work.
“The default needs to be up and moving instead of sitting and slouching,” he advises. “If you have been sitting for an hour, you have been sitting too long.”
Start by setting a timer for 50 minutes or using the ring of the telephone as a reminder to stand up and move around.
Ask if your meetings can be held while walking. Dr. Levine says walk-and-talk meetings are becoming more mainstream as big companies create active opportunities for their employees. At its 2013 Annual Meeting, the American Medical Association adopted a policy that encouraged employers to offer fitness balls and standing workstations.
“This is coming to an office near you,” Dr. Levine predicts.
So stand up and get moving!
“We need to create this culture. The default needs to be up and moving instead of sitting and slouching.”
– Dr. James Levine
Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It by James A. Levine, MD, St. Martin’s Griffin (July 2014), $17.99
Sitting by the numbers
female participants’ likelihood of dying
during an American Cancer Society study (1993-2006) if they were inactive and sat longer than
6 hours a day compared with those who were active and sat less than
3 hours a day
Source: American Cancer Society
The time you could add to your life by sitting for less than 3 hours a day.
Source: Dr. Peter T. Katzmarzyk,
the number of additional calories you could burn per day with activities like walk-and-talk meetings, walking during lunch and doing housework while standing
Source: Dr. James Levine