Owing to the health risks caused by excessive sitting, standing has become the new sitting in some offices in the past few years.
Sitting for extended periods of time has been linked to a number of health risks like deadly blood clots, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and others.
The main factors that encourage spending more time on our backsides than our feet include sedentary desk jobs, sitting while commuting, and sitting in front of the computer or while watching television.
Sitting does not require much energy expenditure and thus contributes to muscle fatigue, decreased circulation, weight gain and other health problems. Thus, lack of movement is associated with unhealthy metabolic changes.
The American Medical Association agrees that prolonged sitting is bad for your health. It adopted a policy recommending that businesses offer alternatives, such as desks that allow employees to stand while working.
A study published by the Centers for Disease Control also suggests methods like opting for sit-to-stand devices in workplaces to combat this problem.
Several studies on inactivity reveal the hazards of prolonged sitting.
- A study led by Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Dr. James Levine discovered the effects of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) on obesity while exploring links between inactivity, low energy expenditure and obesity.The researchers found that NEAT is more powerful than formal exercise. Dr. Levine stated, “A person can expend calories either by going to the gym, or through everyday activities. Our study shows that the calories that people burn in their everyday activities – their NEAT – are far, far more important in obesity than we previously imagined.”
- Marc Hamilton, an inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, found that prolonged sedentary time (predominantly sitting) can put one at greater risk of developing multiple metabolic disorders associated with chronic disease.He also found that prolonged sitting can turn off an enzyme that helps burn fat, thereby leading to weight gain.According to Hamilton, an internationally renowned expert in physical activity, “This enzyme is virtually shut off within hours of not standing, completely independent of diet, completely independent of weight changes.” The enzyme, lipoprotein lipase, is important for controlling plasma triglyceride catabolism, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and more.
- A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in 2013 analyzed the association between sitting time and chronic diseases in middle-aged Australian males. It showed that sitting time is significantly associated with chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure.
- A 2012 study including a large number of participants from New South Wales found that adults who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40 percent greater risk of dying within three years compared with those who sat for less than four hours a day. The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
- According to research published in the online journal BMJ Open, cutting the amount of time spent sitting to less than three hours daily may extend the life expectancy of U.S. adults by two years.
- In 2011, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a study indicating that working at a desk job for almost 10 years can double the risk of developing bowel cancer. The study was conducted by the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and the University of Western Australia.
- In 2010, a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that men who sit more than six hours a day are at least 18 percent more likely to die from heart disease, diabetes, and obesity compared with those sitting less than three hours a day, irrespective of physical activity level. In women, the total mortality increased to 37 percent for those who sit more than six hours a day.
- Scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana also found that people who sit more throughout the day have 54 percent greater likelihood of dying of a heart attack. The study included more than 17,000 men and women and was conducted over a period of 13 years.
- Studies have also found a link between sedentary behavior and increased colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer risk.
The impact of sitting for several consecutive hours cannot be compensated for with vigorous exercise or spending a few hours a week at the gym.
However, according to research by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, taking breaks from prolonged sitting can help counteract the negative effects.
It may improve glucose metabolism and reduce cardiovascular risk. Even standing for a minute to stretch your legs can be beneficial. Increased breaks in sedentary time have also been associated with a lower waist circumference.
Like sitting, prolonged standing also is bad for your health. Apart from being tiring, it increases the risk of developing varicose veins, foot problems, poor circulation and swelling in the feet and legs, heart and circulatory problems, and other health concerns.