Is sitting going to kill you? Is sitting the new tobacco?
The invention of the radio, television, and internet were all revolutionary for human society. News and entertainment were able to spread into the homes of everyone who could afford it.
However, the side effect of these technological advancements put your butt on a couch for hours on end.
When adults used to walk to the city square to get their information by newspaper, now they stay sitting in the comfort of their home. And kids who used to play kickball and capture the flag (what a great game) in the yard, are now glued to their iPad playing games on their bed.
Besides the social effects of this, the problem for your health is you’re spending far more hours sitting than you are being active.
Prolonged sitting can cause weight gain because you’re not burning calories through exercise. The lack of smooth blood flow gives way to diseases. The risk of unbearable back pain. And hours of no physical activity also means less energy, a worse mood or depression, and problems with insomnia.
The point is, sitting too often is awful for your health.
And as the title of this post suggests, some say that sitting is going to kill you prematurely.
Will sitting kill you? Let’s find out.
Studies On Sitting And Early Death
One study from the Annals of Internal Medicine associated sitting with increased chances of getting a lethal disease, regardless of exercise.
These diseases could be anything from type 2 diabetes, depression, cancer, or cardiovascular issues. Bad news! (That study was then updated with a correction.)
As the world hopped on the war against sitting, a study from Richard M. Pulsford found that sitting didn’t have an effect on mortality risk of their participants. Controlling for factors including gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, the researchers didn’t find a connection for early death.
In other studies, they found that the lack of physical activity is the true cause of early death, not specifically sitting too much. The same problems could come from standing in place. A stationary posture is the problem.
So it’s currently inconclusive if sitting will kill you, but what’s clear is that sitting too often during the day without any activity will damage your health and could lead to undesirable diseases. So let’s strike up a plan to sit less and get more physical activity.
How To Sit Less And Be Active More
Obviously exercising on the elliptical for an hour or running five miles around your place is one way to sit less. But there are easier hacks to sit less during the day and move more if you don’t have time to hit the gym.
Implement these habits during the day and you can make a big difference in living a healthier lifestyle.
1. Take the stairs over the elevator
The lazy part of you wants the elevator, but the wise voice says take the stairs. Do this and you’re guaranteed a good amount of steps taking the stairs in the morning, down and up for lunch, and leaving the office in the evening.
If you work at a desk job, taking the stairs is even more important to offset hours of immobility.
When I wasn’t an entrepreneur, I used to do this ever since my summer internship boss would always take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Besides the health benefits, walking up the stairs will get your heart rate moving and blood flowing better than coffee. Your productivity will benefit significantly.
2. Pace during phone calls
When you’re on the phone at work or at your place, stand up and start pacing during the call. Doing this will make your body move to get those extra steps in—they all add up.
This movement will also give you more energy during the call that will come out through your voice. Standing exudes confidence in your tone, and the person on the other line will be pleased.
And you’ll be a better communicator when standing up. Because studies show that people who stand up think better than sitting down. It’s true, you actually think quicker on your feet.
This tactic works for everywhere except the car.
3. Go with a standing desk
Studies go back and forth on if standing at work offers benefits to you, but I’m a believer that it helps because it’s easier to move around and stretch out when standing.
If you get creative, like I did by putting my laptop on the top of my dresser so I can move my legs when writing, you don’t need to invest the money in a standing desk.
Just remember that using a standing desk doesn’t solve all your problems. Because sedentary standing or slouching is also bad for your body and spine. So make sure to shake those legs and bounce around a bit when you’re working.
Over time, working standing up will feel as normal as sitting down.
4. Walk around during work breaks
There’s no doubt that if you want to maximize your productivity during the day, it’s best to take breaks. The brain and its willpower during the day is like a muscle. It’s exhausted and unable to perform if overexerted.
You can kill two birds with one stone by walking during your breaks. Maybe you walk through the office to go to the bathroom, go outside to walk around the building a few times, or take your dog for a walk.
But taking a break and walking during it is easy to forget. I’d recommend you set a reminder or alarm on your phone to guarantee you do it during the day.
5. Don’t eat lunch at your desk
Since lunch is in the middle of your day, it’s the perfect time to get some exercise walking so you avoid that afternoon energy slump.
The people who have to sit in a chair all morning and afternoon do nothing for their health when they choose to sit at their desk during lunch.
For those who pack their lunch to save money, I’m all for it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t walk to eat somewhere outside or take the stairs to eat in the office cafeteria. Breaking the habit of eating at your desk helps you meet new people.
6. Meet coworkers in person
When you’re about to send an email to your coworker Shannon, don’t hit send. Walk over to her and talk it out right there.
Odds are the communication will be friendlier, you might make a new friend, and you’ll get your answer quicker instead of adding to the pile of Shannon’s unread emails.
Implement this as your regular routine, and you’ll be seen as the friendly, energetic employee that everyone likes.
And don’t forget about all those steps that come from this move.
7. Mix an activity with television or Netflix
I’m so busy that I’m not one to sit for hours watching television or Netflix. But some people do watch shows for hours.
To move more and offset the laziness, mix an activity with your favorite show. Standing up doing laundry, cleaning, or organizing are activities that come to mind off the top of my head.
Another option is to ignore the busy activities and get down to exercise during the show or its breaks. Walk around your place after every episode. Do push ups during commercials. Do something to make your body work.
8. Track your fitness
Tracking your fitness gives you awareness if you’ve been active or dormant during the day. And you gain goals to improve on each week. Seeing your results will cause you to desire to walk more and sit less.
If you don’t have the money, there are plenty of free apps for your smartphone that will track your steps, calories burned, and heart rate.
If you have an iPhone, there’s a predownloaded app called Health (red heart with a white background). It only tracks you when the phone is on you though, which isn’t as convenient.
While sitting all day is terrible for your weight and posture, the evidence is inconclusive at this point that sitting is going to kill you. There’s not enough research and data to be sure.
However, what is for sure is that the staples of a healthy and long life always come down to the basics:
- Eat healthy to fill your body with natural nutrients
- Exercise consistently, whether that be cardio or lifting weights
- Get enough sleep each night—around eight hours
Take care of yourself in these three ways, what I consider the Big 3 of staying healthy, and you’ll give your body the resources it needs to sustain you. A more energized and happier you comes out when you eat, exercise, and sleep right.
And sitting less to be more active during the day only helps your health, so prioritize mobility at least a few minutes every hour and you’ll be fine.
How often do you sit during the day? Now that you know why sitting is bad for you, what changes will you make to be more active?