Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Scientists estimate that most people over the age of 12 spend the majority of their time—at least 8 to 10 hours a day—sitting down. All of this sitting is taking a serious toll on our mental and physical health. As Tom Rath, author of Eat, Move, Sleep, writes:

Every hour you spend on your rear end — in a car, watching television, attending a meeting, or at your computer — saps your energy and ruins your health. Sitting also makes you fat.

A number of conditions are caused or worsened by a sedentary lifestyle including depression, hypertension, angina, obesity, ADHD, anxiety, diabetes among others. Scientists believe prolonged sitting may even increase the risk of cancer.

The bad news is that going to the gym for an hour each day is not enough to offset the serious health consequences of chronic inactivity.  In an NIH funded study that followed 240,000 adults over a decade, even the adults who exercised vigorously, seven or more hours per week, had an increased risk of death if they sat for long periods of the day.

Build Activity Into Your Day

Part of the problem is that we tend to think of exercise as something outside of our daily lives rather than something that is built into our day. The good news is that this is just a mindset and simple to fix.

1. Stand up at least once an hour

Whether watching TV or sitting at your desk, stand up, stretch your legs and move around.

2. Seek out opportunities to move

Schedule walking meetings instead of office meetings. Take the stairs. Pick up lunch instead of ordering in.  Get off the subway a stop early and walk the rest of the way. Park the car at the far end of the parking lot. Visit a museum. Get a dog.

3. Monitor yourself:

Tracking your activity with a pedometer or Jawbone will keep you motivated.

As recent studies show, daily “non-exercise” activities like mowing the lawn, doing housework, gardening and even mushroom gathering have a positive effect.  Sneakers and spandex aren’t required to reap the mental and physical benefits of staying active in fun and creative ways.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman