I know I do it every day…way too much! How about you? I bet you’re doing it right now! What is it? I’ll give you a hint: it goes especially well with buttery popcorn and a movie…and it’s one potentially deadly thing that most of us can take action on in some way, big or small.
I’m talking about sitting down.
Whether it’s at work, in a car or bus, or on the couch, we tend to spend a lot of time sitting down. However, I came across a new study the other day (yes, while I was sitting) that suggests this common practice, if done for too long, can lead to specific types of cancer. Yes, cancer!
Let me give you some background on this study I’m referring to.
Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, this study observed 43 previous studies, which included more than four million participants and 68,936 cases of cancer. The goal of the research was to determine the connection between the amount of time spent sitting down and certain cancer varieties.
The findings showed that an extra two hours of sitting or other non-physical activity could lead to an eight-percent increase in your risk of colon cancer, a 10% rise in your risk of endometrial cancer, and a six-percent higher risk of lung cancer.
And this is not the only study to look into the negative health effects of sitting for extended periods. I recall a 2011 study by the American Cancer Society that looked at the health of 123,216 people over 14 years; it found that sitting for more than six hours a day (which many of us tend to do while working a nine-to-five office job) made women 40% and men 20% more likely to die over the course of the study than those who sat for three hours a day or less. Those are some scary numbers!
You see, the reasons sitting impacts your health so negatively go beyond simply not giving your body the movement and exercise it needs. Extended periods seated make you more likely to consume unhealthy foods and beverages, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Sitting also impacts your blood circulation; if blood isn’t reaching your heart, it could lead to clots, and “rested” blood affects blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Spending too much time sitting can also weaken your immune system.
Some of the solutions to the sitting “problem” are simple: regular exercise, standing up, and general movement. But what’s also important is that you try to avoid activities you would normally be sitting for, such as watching TV.
I do need to warn you that the effects of being sedentary for the majority of your day may not be effectively counteracted with regular exercise. Some research I came across some time ago found that even if you engage in regular physical activity, a few hours of sitting each day can still be bad for you. In fact, the study concluded that two-and-a-half hours of exercise per week isn’t enough to undo the detrimental effects of sitting for several hours. That same study also found that on top of cancer, sitting for extended periods can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Research continues to be performed to discover how to best reduce and split up time spent sedentary, and while many groups acknowledge the risks of sitting for too long, few offer solutions, especially when there seem to be many situations where extended sitting cannot be avoided, such as when you’re driving your daily commute. For now, the best way to stave off the dangers that come with prolonged sitting is to create as many situations as possible where you have to stand, breaking up what would otherwise be a long period of sitting. For example, park at the far end of the parking lot to increase the distance you’re walking when not driving, stand on the bus instead of sitting, do standing exercises while watching TV, stand up and stretch every hour, and don’t be afraid to leave your desk to go for a walk.
Source for Today’s Article:
Dellorto, D., “Sitting, even after workout, can cut lifespan,” CNN web site, July 22, 2010; http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2010/07/22/sit-less-live-longer/comment-page-4/.
Hudson, W., “Sitting for hours can shave years off life,” CNN web site, June 24, 2011; http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/06/24/sitting.shorten.life/index.html.
Owen, N., et al., “Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior,” Exerc Sport Sci Rev. Jul 2010; 38(3): 105–113; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404815/.
Parachuru, G., “Sitting too long may increase your cancer risk,” CNN web site, June 17, 2014; http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/06/17/sitting-too-long-may-increase-your-cancer-risk/?hpt=he_c2.