In recent centuries, advances in industry and technology have fundamentally changed the way many humans spend their waking hours. Where it was once commonplace to spend virtually all of those hours on your feet – walking, twisting, bending, and moving – it is now the norm to spend those hours sitting.
The modern-day office is built around sitting, such that you can conduct business – make phone calls, send e-mails and faxes, and even participate in video conferences – without ever leaving your chair.
But there’s an inherent problem with this lifestyle. Your body was designed for near perpetual movement. It thrives when given opportunity to move in its fully intended range of motion and, as we’re now increasingly seeing, struggles when forced to stay in one place for long periods.
What Happens When You Sit for Too Long?
Studies looking at life in natural agriculture environments show that people in agrarian villages sit for about three hours a day. The average American office worker can sit for 13 to 15 hours a day.
The difference between a “natural” amount of sitting and modern, inappropriate amounts of sitting is huge, and accounts for negative changes at the molecular level.
According to Dr. James Levine, co-director of the Mayo Clinic and the Arizona State University Obesity Initiative, there are at least 24 different chronic diseases and conditions associated with excessive sitting.
As he wrote in Scientific American:
“Sitting for long periods is bad because the human body was not designed to be idle. I have worked in obesity research for several decades, and my laboratory has studied the effect of sedentary lifestyles at the molecular level all the way up to office design.
Lack of movement slows metabolism, reducing the amount of food that is converted to energy and thus promoting fat accumulation, obesity, and the litany of ills—heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more—that come with being overweight. Sitting is bad for lean people, too.
For instance, sitting in your chair after a meal leads to high blood sugar spikes, whereas getting up after you eat can cut those spikes in half.”
Not surprisingly, sitting for extended periods of time increases your risk for premature death. This is especially concerning given the fact that you may be vulnerable to these risks even if you are a fit athlete who exercises regularly.
It takes a toll on your mental health, too. Women who sit more than seven hours per day were found to have a 47 percent higher risk of depression than women who sit four hours or less.
There’s really no question anymore that if you want to lower your risk of chronic disease, you’ve got to get up out of your chair. This is at least as important as regular exercise… and quite possibly even more so.
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