I hope you’re sitting down when you read this; it’s quite alarming.
Hmmm, actually, I hope you’re not.
Most of us have sedentary lifestyles.
In many cases, rocks move more than us. I say this neither to induce shame nor guilt, but because – well, that’s just the way it is. Unless you’re an athlete or you have a job that’s got you on your feet all day long, a 2008 report showed that the average American spends about 7.7 hours per day plopped on an ever-expanding tushie. An Australian study says, “The average adult spends 50 to 70 percent of their time sitting;” a majority of his or her life.
It’s not difficult to get there. Consider an office job, relaxing in front of the TV, sitting at the dinner table, reading a book, driving to work, watching DVDs, going to the movies, playing video games; the list goes on. I mean, if we used our feet half as much as we used our behinds, we’d have shapely legs and firm butts; which sure as heck wouldn’t be a bad thing.
With the exception of walking my dog, conducting meetings, or going to Zumba, I spend most of my day in front of a computer screen. For goodness sakes, I’m doing it right now writing this piece. You might not be a computer jockey like me but I bet your life is similar.
What’s alarming is that recent research is showing that type of lifestyle can be as unhealthy as smoking.
Want to know the details? (Actually, you don’t; but I’m going to tell you anyway.)
The first thing that happens from sitting is that electrical activity in our legs shuts down and the caloric burn rate plummets to about one per minute. (Putting that in perspective, someone weighing 160 pounds, taking a leisurely stroll, will burn three to five times that much.) Of course, this increases the odds of weight gain.
Within two weeks of extended sitting, we observe significant upticks in triglycerides and “bad cholesterol” (LDL). Adding insult to injury, insulin effectiveness decreases, upping the odds of type two diabetes. After a year, the average woman starts losing about one percent of her bone mass annually, increasing the likelihood of fractures and breaks. Surprisingly to me was that, after about a decade, the odds of breast or prostrate cancer climbs by almost one-third. From sitting? Really?
According to the same study, every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. (By comparison, according to the authors, a cigarette reduces life expectancy by 11 minutes.)
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of those folks with a bumper sticker proclaiming, “Kill your TV;” I loved my Breaking Bad as much as anyone. Besides, reading Hunger Games while dumped on the couch has the same effect physically as staring at the flat-screen. It’s the lack of movement causing the problem.
The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot to minimize these dangers.
We don’t need to run marathons nor jog in place during family dinners. Standing — just being vertical — for only five minutes an hour really helps; which, when you think about it, isn’t difficult.
When the phone rings, get up. During commercials, rise. Set a timer on your computer to go off every hour, and during that time, walk around the office. There are countless small steps (pun intended) that we can do to be healthier, without having to totally rearrange our lives.
But the first thing is to take a stand for better health.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a motivational weight loss speaker, and the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com and founder of www.21DayHabitChange.com, guaranteed to help you change a habit in just 3 weeks. He is available for coaching and speaking at 707.442.6243, scottq (at) scottqmarcus.com or facebook.com/ThisTimeIMeanIt.