6 Ways Sitting Will Kill You, Even If You Exercise: Here’s What To Do

“Sitting is the new smoking!” shouts the scientists who study such things. “Sitting will kill you!” Seems dramatic? Well, that’s bad news for all us chair-dwellers, but there’s also a two-minute solution. Read on…

6 ways killing will kill you

(Pic from eHealthBlog.com)

 

DO YOU sit a  lot?

If you do, and care about your health, read on…

Here are some sobering statistics for you from the World Health Organization (“WHO”) (1,2):

  • Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide.
  • Insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
  • One-in-four adults, and 80% of adolescents worldwide are not active enough.

In case you’re wondering, sitting there scrolling down your smart phone, or typing on the keyboard is insufficient physical activity, says WHO. Seems like to be sufficient, the activity needs to include bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.

Turns out, whatever you’re doing whilst sitting (or laying down, with some exceptions) doesn’t constitute “energy expenditure”.

So far, no surprises, right? In fact, you might be sitting there thinking, “Hey, I workout… no problems here…”.  I thought that myself, sitting there in all my self-righteous glory.

But a certain little factioid came along to humble me: Those regular exercise sessions thrice or so per week, don’t help as much as you’d think.

I’ve been reading various articles for a year or two that proclaim, “Sitting is the new smoking”, and “Sitting will kill you”, which I thought were interesting and pertinent to most non-exercising knowledge-workers who mainly get their “skeletal muscles” working in two minute increments…

To Work:

Walk from chair in house to seat in car: 30 seconds

Walk from seat in car to chair in office: 2 minutes

From Work:

Walk from chair in office to seat in car: 2 minutes

Walk from seat in car to couch in home: 30 seconds

{Extra credit for those who commute by bus, train or ferry and thereby need to walk a bit to get to those modes of transport, and from them to work.}

But that’s not me (I thought), so no worries!  I typically walk two miles a day, exercise vigorously at least three times per week, and do mobility exercises every morning.  You’d think I’d have earned a big golden star!  Alas, I had to wipe that smirk off my smug face when I read a synopsis of 47 studies that conclude:

“Prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity”

Translation:

If you don’t exercise like a professional athlete, sitting all day is going to increase the probability of you contracting diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and “all-cause mortality”.

According to eHealthBlog.com, sitting can kill you in six specific ways:

  1. Lower extremity problems like poor circulation leading to deep vein thrombosis and osteroporisis;
  2. A whole assortment of chronic diseases, as above noted;
  3. Deteriorating mental health;
  4. Chronic kidney disease, particularly for women, who when reducing their sitting time from a full eight to three hours reduced the risk by 30%. (For men it’s 15%);
  5. An increased risk of metabolic syndrome by 73% (that’s a three-fisted punch!); and
  6. Muscle degeneration, including nice soft saggy glutes, and weak paunchy abs.

So, what should we “knowledge workers” do, given that our work doesn’t require us to move?

 

The Solution To Sitting All Day

I’ve experimented with a solution that you might want to try.

Set your smart phone to chime once an hour. Like a good Pavlovian, when you hear the chime, stand up and do two minutes of exercise. It could be jumping jacks, push-ups, waking up and down stairs — whatever gets your joints moving, muscles contracting and heart beating.

This is all you need do to mitigate the deleterious health effects of sitting.  Or you could simply stand up every half hour and gaze at the wall, which was CNN’s tip (more or less) as outlined in its report, “Sitting will kill you, even if you exercise“, from which I took this screen shot:

 

CNN: sitting will kill you

 

I opt for the more vigorous once-an-hour option. The reason is that doing two minutes of fairly intense exercise each hour for eight hours or more adds up big time!  I was shocked at how exercised I felt by the end of the day, and even sore here and there the next day.

 

Apple Watch Will Help

Apple seems to think moving regularly is a good idea too.

You may be aware that the company has been diligently working on a new platform to support their Apple Watch, slated for release in a few months. Yes, Apple Watch can count steps, track your progress and provide exercise routines, but pertinent to our topic of disrupting our penchant for sitting, Apple Watch will vibrate against your wrist at intervals you set.

One big reason why Apple Watch will have this feature is to remind us to get off our butts and move.  What you do once you’re standing is up to you, but just do something.

Instead of sitting all day.

Ciao for now.

P.S.  Shock yourself by calculating how much time you spend every 24 hours either sitting or lying down. You may be heading for some health issues if during your typical day the only time you move is to go from sitting or lying down in your chair/couch/bed at home to the car/bus/train seat to your office chair, and back again.

So, exactly how much time are you actually moving every day?  If you don’t embarrass easily, let us know in the Comments below.

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Joe Garma
 

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
Dan - February 14, 2015

Joe, do you use an iPhone and do you have a favorite app you use to do this? If I could find one I could set for 2 minutes after the hour too, so I’d be able to time the exercise, that would be cool. Great article. Really good info. Thanks.

Reply
Dan - February 15, 2015

I downloaded the free iPhone app Alarmed and bought the $2.99 upgrade that adds a feature called DayMinder that is specifically designed to do this sort of thing. Plus you can set a “pre-alarm” for 2 minutes, which in essence is like creating the start and stop moving alerts I was thinking I’d need. I’ll start it tomorrow. This is such a good idea Joe. I hope I don’t turn it off.

Reply
Joe Garma - February 15, 2015

Sounds great, Dan.

Reply
Joe Garma - February 15, 2015

Dan, my digital watch has an hourly chime. The key is to have already designated what you will do when for those 2 minutes every hour, so you don’t have to think about it once the alarm goes off.

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