To function at its best level, our bodies cry out for regular physical activity.
More and more research continues to show that lack of such activity, or rather, too much sitting during the day, is detrimental to health and can reduce longevity.
Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, for instance, showed that women who sit for 10 or more hours a day may have a significantly greater risk of developing heart disease than those who sit for five hours or less.1
The surprising discovery is that even if you have a regular exercise program, sitting too much will still contribute to poor health and premature death.
One study found that by reducing the average time you spend sitting down to less than three hours a day you could increase your life expectancy by two more years.2
Another study, published in Diabetologia,3 analyzed 18 studies that in total included nearly 800,000 people, so that was no small study and they found that those who sat for the longest periods of time were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, compared to those who sat the least. And, while prolonged sitting was linked to an overall greater mortality risk from any cause, the greatest risk was increased possibility of death due to diabetes.
According to lead researcher Thomas Yates, MD:4
“Even for people who are otherwise active, sitting for long stretches seems to be an independent risk factor for conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease”
Shocking as it may seem, even if you’re fairly physically active, riding your bike to work or hitting the gym four or five days a week you may still succumb to the effects of too much sitting if the majority of your day is spent behind a desk or on the couch. Researchers have dubbed this phenomenon the “active couch potato effect“.
Sitting is not harmful in itself, but when you sit for too long without changing your position or moving much at all, that’s when the problems occur. Doing so places you in what Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, calls quasi-micro-gravity.
Dr. Vernikos discovered that the act of standing up is more effective than walking for counteracting the ill effects of sitting, the key is how many times you stand up.
Dr. Vernikos’ research was really clear that standing up around 35 times a day or so can counteract the cardiovascular health risks associated with excessive sitting. This is no flimsy study but based on double-blind research where volunteers would spend four days in bed to induce detrimental changes. Dr. Vernikos tested two groups to see which was more effective, walking or standing, and how long would you have to walk or how many times do you have to stand up to get better again?
Hard as it might seem to believe, did you know that if you stand up once every hour this is even more effective than walking on a treadmill for 15 minutes for cardiovascular and metabolic changes according to Dr. Vernikos.
To get the benefit, the stimulus of standing up every 10 minutes, must be spread throughout the day. Set a timer on your phone or use an egg timer or alarm system to remind you to stand every 10 minutes, take a stretch and then sit back down again.
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