Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
A few years ago, I was shocked when a friend said, “Sitting is the new smoking.” What!? I spend my days…sitting. Once I land at my desk, I forget to move. It doesn’t even occur to me to push my chair back and stand up.
Here’s the problem: Long-term sitting causes the blood to pool in the legs and keeps it from flowing to the heart, which can increase the chances of cardiovascular issues by up to 80 percent. Even one hour of sitting can impair blood flow by as much as 50 percent.
Those are pretty scary numbers with pretty scary consequences. Reversing the deadly effects of sitting ratcheted up several degrees in my priorities when I read those stats.
After my friend’s pronouncement about the dangers of sitting, I made a concerted effort to attend my Zumba class and then walked on the days I wasn’t dancin’ my way to being fit. But recent studies indicate that, while it’s nice I’m exercising–and I am more fit–condensing movement into one segment of the day is relatively meaningless in terms of the harm sitting does. One study found that six hours of sitting cancels out the health benefits of one hour of exercise.
But Indiana University researchers, who published an article in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found a solution. The researchers assembled a group of men, ages 20 to 35, who were healthy (no obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes). “They were inactive people though,” Saurabh Thosar, lead author of the study, said. “They did not exercise regularly.”
The men were asked to devote five minutes of walking on a treadmill for every hour they sat. Those brief, intermittent walking breaks prevented the men from experiencing the impaired blood flow that normally occurs when a person sits hour after hour.
So the solution to a significant problem apparently is simple: Break up your sitting regimen with five-minute walking breaks every hour.
Now, for those readers who are gloating over their decision to work standing up, hold on. Indiana University’s study didn’t examine whether walking was more effective in increasing blood circulation than standing. But in an interview, Thorsar stated that he suspected walking would be more effective because it requires active muscle movement. Standing would be better than sitting, but the worker would still be relatively stationary. A different study did find that breaking up sitting with light activity improved blood sugar levels, but breaking up sitting with standing did not.
I’m not giving up my Zumba or walking because muscle tone and other physical and mental benefits are important to me. (Okay, okay, calling my muscles “toned” would constitute a gross exaggeration, but I’m trying, all right?) However, after reading about the positive effect of taking that five-minute, moving break every hour, I’m convinced I need to change my work habits.
For those of you who have figured out how to pull yourself away from your all-absorbing work to take regular breaks, help me here. How do you remind yourself to get up and move?
How to reverse the deadly effects of sitting hour after hour. Click to tweet.
Sitting is deadly; it’s equivalent to smoking. Click to tweet.
Long-term sitting can increase the chances of cardiovascular issues by up to 80%. Click to tweet.