Are you sitting yourself to an early, fat, death?

As a chiropractor, I’ve known for years that sitting was harder on our low backs than standing.  Every day I tell people that sitting puts about twice as much force and pressure on our backs as standing.

As an onsite wellness provider, it’s important for me to be able to assess an employee’s work environment, posture, and activity and make recommendations that will improve their health and reduce the risk of a negative consequence.

So, I decided I needed to educate myself more about the “devastating effects of sitting on health.”  So I googled it, and learned that people who sit all day are putting themselves at serious risk for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity, asthma, and even depression.  In fact, there are over 10,000 studies suggesting that sitting all day is associated with greater risk of both cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Is sitting worse than smoking?

It may sound ludicrous to suggest that sitting is worse than smoking a cigarette (and it probably would be), but it has been estimated that sitting for 1 hour can reduce one’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes, while smoking a cigarette has been estimated to reduce one’s life expectancy by 11 minutes. Unbelievable!  What if all you do is sit around and smoke?

How many hours of the day do I just sit?

How many hours per day do you think you sit?  You need to consider time spent driving, sitting at the computer, watching television on the couch, meetings, school… I quickly realized that I sit much more often than I stand.  I wake up and sit as I do my devotions, check my email, and spend time on the computer sometimes playing games as OW with the different Overwatch characters.  Then I sit as I drive to work, and I find myself sitting any time I’m not adjusting a patient.  Then I come home and sit on the couch watching TV.

It’s not at all uncommon for me to sit for 8-12 hours per day.  What about you?

How much exercise is needed to offset sitting for 8 hours?

I have bad news.  What I learned over and over again was that just like running a mile won’t offset the damage done by smoking, an hour of vigorous exercise won’t do much to offset the damage done by long periods of sitting.

That’s not to say that it’s not beneficial to exercise, but it’s important to note that vigorous exercise at the beginning or end of the day isn’t going to offset the damage done by sitting the rest of the day.

So what would help?

Obviously, it would be great to make exercise a part of your daily routine, but to truly combat the effects of sitting, here are some things to consider:

  • First, could you get rid of the chair?  Could you work while standing up?  Could you get a stand up desk?  Could you replace your chair with an exercise ball?  I decided to move my chair away from desk and only use it when I’m having a consultation with a patient.  The rest of the time I stand at workstation.
  • Another solution is to set a timer to go off every 30 minutes to signal you to walk around, stretch, do some squats, or other activity.
  • Could you commit to getting up during the commercials and exercise, or at least just move around?
  • Could you get a mini trampoline to put in the living room to bounce on while you watch television – even if it’s just during the commercials?

There are all sorts of things one can do with a little creativity.

The payoff is that you could probably begin to see a lot of your belly fat burn off.  Your posture will improve.  You’ll have fewer asthma attacks.  Your immune system will improve.  You’ll reduce your risk of hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.  You may even enjoy a greater state of well-being.

So, would you like to start burning more fat, improve your state of well-being, and reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease?  Then you must take a fair and objective look at the amount of time spent on your butt, and make some changes.