We are living in a day and age where sitting for long hours is common. However, what most of us don’t realise is that sitting too much is very unhealthy for us for more than one reason. Even if our diets are moderate, sitting too much for long hours can cause serious health concerns.
There are certain diseases that are linked directly to sitting too much. These include metabolic syndrome, obesity, increased blood pressure and more. Being seated for too long can also increase the risk one has of developing cancer and other cardiovascular diseases.
There are some obvious reasons for why sitting too much is unhealthy for you. The top 3 are:
You burn fewer calories
Just being awake, we burn calories. However, we burn considerably more by being on our feet and moving around.
One of the biggest drawbacks of sitting too much is that you burn fewer calories. If you are eating normally and sitting throughout the day, you won’t burn as many calories compared with standing. Sitting, in fact, is a contributor to an increase in calories so make sure you know this if you are sitting too much.
A study shows that standing can increase your heart rate by 10 beats per minutes higher, which can equate to 0.7 calories per minute more, than sitting.1
Slows down your body's metabolism
Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.
With the body’s metabolism at a slower rate and the ability to metabolise fat diminished, this can also contribute to weaker muscles and bones.
What’s the evidence?
All of this can sound compelling, but it has been proven on more than one occaision. There are studies dating back as early as the 1950s that show a link between sitting down for a living and coronary heart disease. A study was carried out in London (published in The Lancet medical journal in 1953) on the difference between bus conductors who stand for a living and drivers who are seated.2
It found that drivers, who spend more of their time sitting, were 1.5 times as likely to develop heart disease as conductors, who stood more often.
What can I do about this?
Scandinavian countries are a lot further ahead with employees right to sitting and standing. In Denmark, for example, it is written into employee’s contracts limiting the amount of time that can be spent sat at a desk. In the UK, there is no law requiring employers to limit seated time, only general suggested health and safety guidelines. These suggest that workers move around every so often to avoid “discomfort or long-term health problems”.
If you are not able to negotiate a standing workstation, the best advice to get up and move about once every hour or so. Add a reminder to your smartphone or computer that will nudge you to get up. Take a lap walk around the office, or grab a drink of water. Also, avoiding eating lunch at your desk can really help. Instead, leave the building and go for a walk or even a run, you will really notice the difference and feel much better when you sit down for the afternoon’s session.