Is sitting the new smoking?

Lee's Summit JournalJune 18, 2014 

This subject has been in the news again lately so I thought it was worth revisiting. According to a recent article in Discovery News, James Levine at the Mayo Clinic calls it the “sitting disease,” comparing the ill effects of inactivity to the side effects of smoking. Researchers have actually linked sitting for prolonged periods with a number of health problems and premature death from cardiovascular disease.

In one study, adults who spent more than four hours a day sitting in front of the television or computer had an 80 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared with adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV or computer.

“The solution seems to be less sitting and more moving,” according to Levine. “Simply by standing, you burn three times as many calories as you do sitting. Muscle contractions, including the ones required for standing, seem to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars. When you sit down, muscle contractions cease and these processes stall.”

Researchers at the University of Missouri asked people who usually exercise to spend three days in a sedentary lifestyle. Although they ate the same foods, their blood sugar spiked after meals, increasing by about 26 percent compared with their blood sugar levels when they exercised.

In the past, we spent most of our lives on our feet hunting animals or tending crops. These activities gave us plenty of exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Unfortunately, many people now spend as much as 9.3 hours sitting each day, that’s more than the eight hours of sleep we normally get. Sitting for six or more hours a day increases your chance of dying within the next 15 years by 40 percent because:

Persons with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs.

30 minutes of exercise per day will not counteract sitting for six or more hours a day, we need more activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As soon as you sit down electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off, calorie burning drops to one calorie per minute, enzymes that break down fat drop by 90 percent, after two hours good cholesterol drops 20 percent and after 24 hours insulin effectiveness drops 24 percent and risk of diabetes increases.

What can we do to prevent becoming a victim of the sitting disease? Simply stand up and move for 10 minutes every hour and do at least 30 minutes of high intensity exercise every day. You can do it! Start today.


Judy Schmoeger, a longtime resident of Lee’s Summit, is owner and general manager of Anytime Fitness.

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