A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology links excessive sitting time with increased risk of dying. The study also concluded that whether you exercise or not makes little difference.
According to results, men and women who sat longer than six hours were more likely to die at the time of the study than those who sat for fewer than three hours. Some alarming facts:
1. We spend 8.5 hours a day in front of screens.
That’s what Ball State University researchers found out in 2009 when they recorded how much visual media people are exposed to on a daily basis, and through what mediums. Their results showed that across most age groups, consumers spend almost nine hours a day in front of the TV and computer, using mobile devices like the iPhone, and watching movies. Another survey done that same year had similar results: The Nielsen Company’s Three Screen Report found that Americans watch about 153 hours of TV every month per person and that doesn’t include anything watched online or via smartphones.
2. Work-life lasts 7.5 hours every day. Active life? Not so much.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted an American Time Use Survey in 2009 showing 7.5 hours as the average amount of time Americans spend working daily. Ted Schadler of Forrester Research estimates that thirty-four million Americans work from home at least part of the time, which often contributes to a sedentary lifestyle by eliminating the need to get up and leave the house, walk to a coworker’s desk for a meeting, and so forth. That number is expected to reach sixty-three million by 2016.
Comparatively, the 2010 National Health Interview Survey found that only 31 percent of people do the recommended thirty minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. In fact, 40 percent of people don’t engage in any kind of regular exercise at all.
This all leads to fifty-six hours of sitting every week.
A 2009 issue of Women’s Health reported on a poll conducted by the Institute for Medicine and Public Health that showed the average American spends a little over 33 percent of the week sitting.
Forty-four percent of workers in a 2010 Careerbuilder.com survey reported that they had put on weight at their jobs. Forty-nine percent of them attributed it to sitting at a desk most of the day. That could be because being sedentary for long periods of time causes the metabolism to slow and less effectively break down fats and sugars.
3. Three out of four Americans have an increased skin-cancer risk partly caused by sitting indoors so much.
Recent research suggests office workers are more at risk for malignant melanoma than outside workers. In exploring this surprising rise, the authors of a 2009 study published in Medical Hypotheses discovered two significant factors: harmful UVA exposure from outside light through windows and a lack of vitamin D.
A 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 75 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, partly due to insufficient time outdoors (because we’re spending too much time working and watching TV indoors). We need vitamin D to fight melanoma, but the only way to get a sufficient amount is through proper diet and plenty of sunshine. A deficiency in vitamin D also contributes to osteoporosis and cardiovascular issues.
4. Our mothers were wrong: fidgeting in seats is a good thing.
The more you move in any capacity, be it pacing or wiggling in your seat, the less likely you are to gain weight, at least according to a 2005 study at the Mayo Clinic. Scientists studied the actions and tracked the caloric intake of obese and thin people for a period of time. They found that the thin participants sat 150 minutes less per day than the obese ones because they tended to fidget more, which meant that they burned an average 350 calories more. Even tapping your foot under the desk works; it’s a movement that continuously activates leg muscles without requiring much energy or thought.
There’s at least one alternative to sitting in a desk chair all day, and that’s the treadmill desk championed by the same Mayo Clinic researchers who studied fidgeting. You walk on the treadmill at any pace you like and type, talk on the phone, and conduct work as you would sitting–only this way you’re burning way more calories. But if your employers won’t spring for that, try to stand up and stretch or walk around at least once an hour.