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Is Sitting as Bad for Our Health as Smoking?

Sitting for prolonged periods can have a big impact on your health. To avoid negative effects to your body, make these small, easy changes to your day.

 Sitting at a desk in an office

How Sedentary Are We?

Studies show that on average, we sit 7.7 hours a day. Other results show that some people sit up to 15 hours a day. This may sound like a lot, but the hours add up quickly when you consider all the instances when you are likely sitting down—driving to and from work, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, and while relaxing at the end of the day.

So How Much Do You Sit?

You may be surprised at just how much time you spend in a chair. Want to calculate the amount? Use this calculator.

What’s the Harm?

“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking,” warns Martha Grogan, Cardiologist at Mayo Clinic. Scientists have even created a name for it—sitting disease. Sitting for prolonged periods limits muscle contractions to large muscles and contributes to lower back pain, heart disease, diabetes, bad cholesterol, and weight gain.

You may think that your daily exercise routine makes you exempt from the harmful effects of sitting, but sitting all day at the office can negate time spent at the gym. A recent study showed that regardless of exercising regularly at a moderate or vigorous level, people who take breaks from sitting have slimmer waists, lower body mass indexes, and healthier blood sugar and blood fat levels than those who mostly sit during the day.

What’s the Solution?

Standing can provide similar benefits to walking: it increases energy, burns calories, improves posture, and increases blood flow. Finding a more active alternative to your normal routine can burn more calories, jump-start your metabolism, and prevent weight gain.

To reap the benefits of standing, consider these alternatives:

Sitting at your desk (83 calories burned per hour)

Do this: stand at your desk (115 calories burned per hour)

Instead of this: riding the elevator (128) Do this: take the stairs (509)

Instead of this: talking on the phone seated (102) Do this: pace while chatting (147)

Instead of this: emailing a coworker (96) Do this: walk to her office (128)

*based on a 140-pound woman

Making these small, easy changes in your day could have a big impact on your health. Leave a comment and tell us what you do to stand more during the day.

 

SelectHealth may link to other websites for your convenience. SelectHealth does not expressly or implicitly recommend or endorse the views, opinions, specific services, or products referenced at other websites linked to the SelectHealth site, unless explicitly stated.

The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

References 1. “The Facts: Sit-Stand Basics.” Just Stand.org.  Ergotron, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. 2. Corliss, Julie. “Too much sitting linked to heart disease, diabetes, premature death.” Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Publications, 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016. 3. “How a Sedentary Lifestyle (Sitting Too Much Every Day) can Seriously Endanger Your Health.” Women’s Health. Rodale, Inc., Sept. 2009. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

Calculator Link: http://www.juststand.org/tabid/866/language/en-US/Default.aspx

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Post Author

Sandy Patton

Sandy is a Marketing Communications Specialist and has been with SelectHealth for 15 years. Her prior roles include health education and wellness coaching.