Sit! This basic command to the family pet is one often exercised for extensive periods by the rest of the family at home, school or the office. “Sitting is the new smoking”, says Anup Kanodia; physician and researcher at the Centre For Personalised Health Care at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Centre.
An Australian study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in October 2012 stated that every one hour of sitting watching TV, reduces a person’s life by 22 minutes, whilst every cigarette shortens a smoker’s life by about 11 minutes.
“The chair is out to kill us,” States James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. In the UK physical inactivity is responsible for 17% of early deaths. It is an international epidemic, causing 6% of deaths around the world, making it one of the top four global killers. It can shorten life expectancy by three to five years.
The cure for physical inactivity could be as simple as walking. It costs nothing and it’s health benefits are proven. It can reduce the risk from heart disease to breast cancer. All it takes is a little self motivation and determination. With some planning it can be done anywhere in all weather.
Sitting still burns very few calories and can pile on the pounds over time. Levine States that a person with a desk job may burn 300 calories a day at work whilst the same person might burn 2,300 per day in a job that requires considerable physical output. Sitting can lead to insulin resistance and suppress the production of lipase, which is essential for turning bad cholesterol into good. Thus the link between prolonged sitting, diabetes and heart disease.
What to do if your job calls for many hours of staying seated? A study published in Diabetes Care last year showed you can improve your glucose metabolism with a two minute walk every 20 minutes. It is recommended that people engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity. This is equivalent to 30 minutes each day, 5 times per week.
Dr Hannah Bridges, senior information officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer says, “Any activity that raises your pulse reduces your risk – so regular brisk walks are an easy and free way to get active.”