It might not sound like a real thing, but in today’s world, where many people spend the majority of a 24-hour period sitting or lying down, the problem nicknamed “sitting disease” has become a very real and very dangerous situation.
What is “sitting disease”?
The website JustStand.org explains that the term “sitting disease” was invented by the scientific community as a way to identify the ill effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle on human beings. It isn’t a medical diagnosis just yet, but still, between sitting at work, sitting in the car or on a bus and then sitting down at the table or in front of the TV at home, the hours spent sitting or lying down quickly add up.
How serious is it?
According to Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Magazine, a Canadian study suggests too much time spent sitting is associated with increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death. But what may be even more alarming to many is a Swedish study that reveals that the link between mortality and prolonged sitting is independent of moderate or vigorous physical activity. Meaning, trying to squish in extra time at the gym isn’t necessarily enough to counteract the effects of sitting for most of the day.
What can you do?
Reducing your risk of the consequences associated with sitting disease is as simple as making a few changes in your daily life. The biggest pitfall for most individuals is the time spent at a job that involves sitting all day. To shake things up, try setting a timer that will go off every 30–40 minutes. When it goes off, stand up, stretch, and take a quick walk around if possible. You can also pick out which tasks — such as reading over documents or scheduling — don’t require you to be sitting, and do those standing. And if possible, go for a little walk during your break or lunch.
The next place you may be sitting too much is on your commute. If you drive to work, consider parking farther away so you have to walk to get to your office. Better yet, if possible, take public transportation. Having to walk from your home to the bus or train adds in some light cardio, and you can even stand during the ride to give your legs some extra standing time.
And then, of course, there’s the time spent at home. Although it’s natural to want to plop yourself on the couch after a long day at work, there’s really no need if you’ve been sitting all day. If you’re surfing the web, try placing your laptop on a counter that forces you to stand while you work. And while watching TV, make an effort to get up during the commercials to get a thing or two done around the house that requires you to stand. Or simply stand while you watch.
And the easiest change of all? Vow to never take a phone call while you’re sitting again. It’s easy to chat or do business on the telephone while standing or even pacing. By making a few easy switches, you can add minutes or even hours of standing to your daily routine, which can have extremely positive effects over the long term.