As I write this, I am standing at a tall desk, avoiding my chair like the plague….because prolonged sitting, research is showing, is becoming just like a plague….putting our bodies into dis-ease and distress.
We all know that we need daily exercise each day. Aside from burning calories, exercise is important because when you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which make you feel good and motivate you to eat well, do your job well and simply be happy. Weight bearing exercises increase muscle mass, which in turn burns more calories even while you are sitting on the couch. Interval training is also important to help rev your metabolism for hours after you have left the gym. But, let’s take things a step further and talk about the effects of being sedentary after leaving the gym or Barre class.
Evidence shows that prolonged sitting is devastating your health. It actively promotes dozens of chronic diseases, which includes becoming overweight and acquiring type 2 diabetes, even if you're very fit. What?!?! Studies looking at life in agriculture environments show that people in agrarian villages sit for about three hours a day. Meanwhile, the average American office worker can sit for 13 to 15 hours a day, and research shows that vigorous exercise cannot counteract the terrible effects of this prolonged sitting. I think I should say that again: vigorous exercise cannot counteract the effects of this prolonged sitting.
More than likely you can avoid most of the damage from excessive sitting if you sit less than a total of three hours a day. Sitting down for too long, too often turns out to be an independent risk factor for poor health, and an early demise. While just about any movement will do, weight-bearing exercises are beneficial for most people regardless of fitness level, as is yoga. In addition, standing up as much as possible, preferably with a stand up desk, will allow you to replicate the movement patterns of our ancestors.
When you’ve been sitting for a long period of time and then get up, a number of molecular cascades occur. I find this so fascinating because it’s proof that humans were made for movement. For example, within 90 seconds of standing up, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol (which are mediated by insulin) are activated. Surprising as it may sound, all of these molecular effects are activated simply by carrying your bodyweight upon your legs. These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuels into your cells and, if done regularly, will decrease your risk of diabetes and obesity. Yes! The beautiful human body was designed to be active and on the move all day long. Stop moving for extended periods of time, and it's like telling your body it's time to shut down and prepare for death. No thanks. As a consequence of sitting, your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and toxic buildup all rise. The solution does not involve a prescription—all you need to do is get on up, and avoid sitting down as much as possible. Since most of us live lives that revolve around an office chair, a car seat, and the couch, we will need to figure out how to eliminate hours of sitting every day. As guideline, standing up for at least 10 minutes each hour is recommended. If you've been sitting down for a full hour, you've sat too long. If you work an office job, try just standing up every 50 minutes and doing some gentle stretching, squats or squat pulses, walking around the office…or, even, better, go walk outside for 5 minutes. You don’t even need to break a sweat, just move that body. A great thing to do is set the timer on your phone to go off every 50 minutes. And when it does, Get. On. Up.