A Sneaky Habit That Can Wreak Havoc in Your Body
What’s the one habit that can cause harm to almost every part of your body including your neck, back , heart, brain AND increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer? And if that’s not bad enough, cause weight gain and perhaps … a flabby butt? If you are sitting while you read this … there’s your answer. We are spending more and more time on our backsides and it’s taking a toll on our health. And if you think working out on a regular basis keeps you safe from this “sitting disease”, think again! Studies have shown that even regular exercise isn’t enough to decrease the health risks associated with prolonged sitting.
How many hours do you sit a day?
I’ve been thinking about this. I used to walk about 3 miles a day to/from work. Now my office is 4 blocks away. I used to take walks in between clients. Now I’m booked back to back (not complaining on this one!) Yesterday, I sat for almost 11 hours. The stats say the average American sits 7.7 hours a day. I think it’s a lot more than that. I bet most of you can relate. Think about it – most of the activities we do involve sitting. Working, eating meals, watching tv (and yes, laying on the couch counts as sitting), spending time on the computer, etc.
Health hazards of sitting too long
How do you feel after you’ve sat for 4 or more hours? Maybe your back hurts or you feel stiff. But what you can’t feel is what is going on internally – and this is where the really bad “sneaky” changes are occurring. Some of these changes include:
1. Increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Sitting raises triglycerides, lowers HDL and increases risk CVD.
2. Increased risk of diabetes: A study review of more than 80,000 people shows that spending too much time sitting is linked to a two-fold increase in the risk of diabetes. When we sit for long periods of time, enzyme changes occur in our muscles that can lead to increased blood sugar levels,” says lead study author Emma Wilmot, MD. “The effects of sitting on glucose happen very quickly, which is why regular exercise won’t fully protect you. Data from the study suggests that reducing time sitting by 90 minutes during the course of the day significantly lowers the risk of diabetes.
3. Increase in body weight: Obviously you burn fewer calories when you sit versus move around. But it goes deeper than this. Studies have shown that when we are inactive, our bodies pretty much shut down production of fat burning enzymes called lipase. The result – more fat storage.
4. Back/neck/hip pain: Sitting for long periods of time puts stress on your back , neck and hips. This can lead to chronic pain, imbalances and herniated disks. (pic credit)
5. Brain changes. A new study just came out in NYTimes that inactivity may alter brain function by changing the neurons. While this study was done in rats, it’s postulated that it could occur in humans as well. The researcher in this study says “this is your brain on the couch”.
6. Dying prematurely. This study showed that adults who sat for 11 hrs+/day had a 40% increased risk of dying within 3 years from any cause and those who sat for 8-11 hrs had a 15% increased risk as compared to those who sat 4 hrs or less a day. And it doesn’t matter if you go to the gym. Sitting time is what counts.
Can sitting change your butt’s shape?
On a more superficial note, can sitting change your butt’s shape? While there weren’t too many “studies” done on this topic, the answer is likely YES. Ladies, if the above health risks didn’t scare you, I bet this one will!
– Flat butt. You’ve heard personal trainers say “use it or lose it”. Well, your butt is a large muscle called gluteus maximus. If you don’t use it (i.e. sitting all day), you lose muscle tone/shape – aka flat butt.
– Fat butt: This study showed that sitting too long can actually make your butt bigger. Scans of buttocks from people who sat a lot showed the buttock muscles shrinking and breaking down due to lack of exercise. More surprising was the discovery that fat cells seemed to thrive on the inactivity, infiltrating the muscle, and creating thick ‘stripes’ of fat.
Tips to sit less
I highly doubt our workday will shorten or our tech-driven lifestyle will change, so here are some other ways to get off your butt:
1. Get a standing computer desk or set up a workstation where you can stand versus sit when working on the computer. In my apartment, I currently have 2 setups – one for sitting and one for standing. I had tailbone injury a few years ago and got a standing workstation. It’s great to alternate. Standing also allows you to do little exercises where you tighten your abs and glutes while working.
2. Get up a few times each hour to stretch or do standing squats.
3. Don’t order lunch in – get up and go get it!
5. Every hour or so, do a few flights of the stairs. Writing this article motivated me to walk up 14 flights of stairs at work yesterday. (pic credit)
6. Instead of sending emails, walk to co-workers desk to verbally deliver messages.
7. Drink a lot of water so you will have to make numerous trips to restroom. You can kill 2 birds with one stone (more fluid and more movement!)
8. Talk on the phone standing up. For all my phone session clients, this one is for you!
9. This one would be the best – get a treadmill desk.
Last word, while exercising on a regular basis is great, don’t be fooled into thinking this article doesn’t pertain to you. Find more ways to get off your butt during the day!
I’d recommend you download this free pdf on Hazards of Sitting and place it above your computer
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I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.