Has sitting replaced smoking as the new health risk, causing sickness and early death?
Smoking was popular until the Surgeon General announced, “Smoking can Kill!” in the mid 60s. In the last 50 years, the compelling scientific evidence has changed the behavior of Americans, reducing the number of smokers. However, as our population becomes more sedentary, our sitting ways are the new risk to our health, even for those who exercise.
A recently released study coauthored by Lynette L. Craft, adjunct assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, suggests that even physically active women sit too much. Craft, in collaboration with Ted Zderic of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, studied healthy women ages 40-75 who exercised regularly. Each woman wore an activity monitor that objectively measured physical activity and inactivity. They found that the women sat for eight to nine hours per day, much of it for long periods of time.
According to Craft, we need to be more active during leisure and non-leisure hours. Think about the amount of time you spend in front of a computer or television, talking on the phone, in meetings or in a car—all sitting!
Past studies prove that sitting for extended periods of time, leads to a higher incidence of chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and some cancers—even for those who exercise regularly.
Craft wants to educate women and change their behavior. She recommends:
- Continuing your regular exercise program, including at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week
- Sitting less during all other times of the day
- Using a log to record periods of sitting for two or three days
- Incorporating periods of activity to interrupt sit time.
Break up sitting with light movement every 30 minutes or at least once an hour:
- Stand for a portion of a long conference call or take a call while walking
- Stand while folding laundry
- Set a 15-minute timer on your computer to remind you to get up and move (Craft did 10 squats every 15 minutes as an experiment)
- Walk to a coworker’s desk to return an email
- Stand when you compose a text
- Send your document to a printer across the floor
- Walk to mail a letter
- Take the dog around the block
- Move through a few stretches in between projects
- Drink from a small cup and walk to fill it regularly
- Multitask at home to allow for computer breaks
- Take the stairs to another floor for your bathroom break
For optimal health, ride your bike, hike, run, swim, play tennis, but don’t stop there. Look at the rest of your day and get off your glutes for a little extra movement every 30 minutes. Smoking kills, so can sitting.