How to Reverse the Adverse Health Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle

There’s an insidious threat to people’s health that largely goes undetected.  It’s a sedentary way of life, also called the Sitting Disease, a term coined by the scientific community.  Chances are, you may already be a victim of this “disease” and not even know it.

Modern lifestyles are characterized by a lot of sitting – whether at an office job or at home.  An eight-hour 9-to-5 job, for instance, ties you to your work desk.  You spend a couple hours in traffic driving your vehicle. When you go back home, you sink into your couch to watch TV, or sit at your desk chair while surfing the Internet.

An Institute for Medicine and Public Health poll discovered that Americans spend 56 hours weekly sitting down. That’s a significant amount of time spent being sedentary, and yet most people seldom think that too much sitting is harmful to their health.  A growing amount of research points to the contrary:

A study released by the American Cancer Society stated that females who spent a quarter of the day (about 6 hours) in a seated position increased their threat of death by 37 percent in comparison to those who spend half that time (3 hours) sitting down. This study may have been pivotal in the popularization of the health adage, “Sitting is the new smoking,” and points to the potential of prolonged sitting to cause various types of cancer.

A study highlighted in Clinical Cardiology revealed that morbidly obese people – those with a BMI count between 40 and 49.9 – were sedentary for approximately 99 percent of an average day, and took significantly less than 2,500 footsteps daily, which is way below the recommended 10,000 steps for healthful living.  Weight problems have been associated with five of the most notable illnesses associated with the top mortality rates: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and stroke.

According to a report in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise males who spent the majority of their day sitting had the highest risk of heart disease. Those who watch television and spend time in their vehicles seated — either as a passenger or as a driver — for  23 hours or more weekly increased their chances of death from cardiovascular disease by 64 percent in comparison to those that only sat for 11 hours weekly or less.

The more hours in your day that you are sedentary, the less time you spend moving, and the less the body burns blood sugar.  This may put you at risk of diabetes. Because of enzymes that regulate blood fats that are inactive, your risk for heart disease can increase.

Reduced activity and exercise as a result of sedentary living makes you more susceptible to depression because your body has reduced amounts of endorphins.

But if you think that exercising may help to ward off the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, think again.  Studies show that regular exercise routines might not be enough to totally counteract the harmful ramifications of prolonged sitting.

Whatever your age or fitness level may be, engaging in more physical activity throughout the day to break up long periods of sitting provides enormous rewards for your health and well-being.  Start by doing simple and quick exercises like jumping jacks, rebounding, or the plank, and build-up frequency and intensity gradually.