Fitness: Are You Sitting Yourself To Death?

BlogHer Original Post

Businesswoman with head down on desk

What are you doing right now? Aside from reading this post, you are most likely sitting somewhere. On your couch? At your desk? In a chair? Wherever you find yourself sitting, I'm sure that it won't come as a surprise to you that sitting isn't good for your health. But did you know that it is so bad for your health that it could be taking years off of your life?

It's true.

Unfortunately, I can't even say that I'm setting a good example for any of you by doing something other than sitting on the couch with my laptop myself. However, this new study did get me thinking about ways I might be able to do less sitting, and I think I am going to give a few of them a try (tomorrow).

From WebMD - Are We Sitting Ourselves To Death:

After adjusting for smoking, height/weight, and other factors, Patel's team found that compared to sitting less than three hours a day, sitting six or more hours a day:

  • Increased the death rate by about 40% in women
  • Increased the death rate by about 20% in men
  • Increased the death rate by 94% in the least active women
  • Increased the death rate by 48% in the least active men

It wasn't just that they weren't getting exercise. Patel and colleagues found that sitting itself was detrimental to health. Sitting increased risk of cancer death, but the main death risk linked to sitting was heart disease.

That's scary stuff. I'm sure that I'm sitting more than six hours of the day, and up until very recently I was getting little to no exercise.

So, how many hours a day do you spend sitting? Could you be sitting your way to an early grave? What about your kids?

In the age of couch potatoes, it's not surprising that a lack of activity has become a serious health risk. The question is -- What are you ready to do about it?

Are you ready to take steps to be more active and less sedentary? If so, now is a great time to start. The best part is, the study doesn't suggest that you have to replace hours of sitting with hours of activity. It seems that even just breaking up your sitting time with a bit of active non-sitting time can be beneficial.

Here are some tips for increasing your life expectancy by decreasing the amount of time you sit. Remember, these are just ideas, use these ideas as guidelines for developing a personal plan that works best for you.

1.  Use your cell phone. Set your cell phone alarm to go off regularly throughout the day (at least every hour).  When the alarm goes off, stop what you are doing and exercise for 1 to 3 minutes (this will also have the added benefit of perking you up a bit). It doesn't have to be complicated, you could jog in place, do jumping jacks, lunges, crunches, or any combination of exercises. You can make it as easy or as tough as you like, the goal is to simply get you up and moving for a few minutes on a regular basis. And since there are very few people who couldn't use a few minutes a day for a little extra activity -- If you're at work get your co-workers involved, and if you're at home get your family involved.

2.  Try mixing fitness with social media. Isn't everything better when you mix a little "social media" with it? This one is for the more enthusiastic (or fitness junkies) out there.  If you're ready to kick it up a notch, you may be ready to try a new fitness social media site called pingFit. This site encourages you to do an exercise every twenty minutes, they even show you what exercise to do and have chat rooms set up for discussing all of it.  [I'm not sure I'm ready for something quite this intense, but it is certainly something I can aspire to.]

3.  Don't sit through commercials. This one is a no-brainer, but so many of us are still doing it.  If you do most of your sitting while watching television, try making a commitment to yourself to NOT sit through any commercials. And I don't mean TiVo your shows and fast forward through the commercials. What I mean is, get up during every commercial and walk, stretch, jog in place, anything besides sitting on your bum. And if you already use this time to walk into the kitchen and get a snack, at least make it a healthy one.  [This is definitely something I can see myself being able to accomplish.]

4.  Keep an exercise ball in your TV viewing room. Use the ball to do some exercises while you're watching your shows, or just sit on the exercise ball rather than in a chair.  If you happen to have a piece of exercise equipment that you never use, try dragging it in front of your television. [I do have an exercise ball somewhere, and if I can find it I will definitely try keeping it by my television and use it from time to time.]

What will you do?  Will you be trying to take steps to sit less?  Let me know if my tips have inspired you, or if you have any tips of your own you would like to share.

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Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
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