If you’re a leader at AHS, chances are you’ve heard my short spiel about Instant Recess — our initiative to get folks out of their seats and moving at least a few times a day. In honor of Dr. Toni Yancy, founder of Instant Recess who passed away this week, I’m using today’s blog post to discuss the dangers of prolonged sitting.
The research is in, and so is the verdict — sitting is a health risk on par with other risky behaviors like smoking or an excessive drinking or junk food habit. A sedentary lifestyle has been shown — independent of other variables like heredity, waist circumference, or socio-economics — to increase our risks of heart attach, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and … death.
That’s right, prolonged sitting is deadly. In a study of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006, Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society found:
men who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives (source)
Dr. Marc Hamilton of Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been hard at work researching the effects of sitting. He makes a distinction between “too much sitting” and “too little exercise” — an important point when considering the implications of our modern lives spent mostly behind a desk — and argues through his extensive research that what we do during our waking hours when we aren’t deliberately exercising is of far greater import than that hour we spend at the gym.
Sitting’s negative effects can start to impact us in as quickly as 24 hours’ time. One of Hamilton’s studies using 14 healthy, fit, and even thin adults showed that after just 24 hours of sitting, there was a “40 percent reduction in insulin’s ability to uptake glucose” — (read immediate increased risk for insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes) (source).
Now that I’ve pulled the fire alarm, what are we to do?
It’s simple. GET UP.
Set an Outlook alarm or a timer on your phone that tells you to get up every half hour — at the very least, every hour — and move. This is advice for EVERYONE, no matter your fitness level. From those who need a walker to those who run marathons, this prescription applies to you.
You don’t have to jump up and down 100 times. You don’t have to do pushups or lunges or run the stairs 20 times (although none of those things would hurt). Just stand up! Reach to the sky, arms outstretched, and breath. Rotate your torso back and forth; take a walk down the hall; use the bathroom farther from your office; do ankle circles, arm circles, head circles (these can even be done in your chair more times throughout the day), ANYTHING but sitting still for 8 straight hours. (More tips from Forbes Magazine)
Now go! It’s a beautiful day — getting out of your chair and into the fresh air will save your life — literally.