Usually at the end of commericals promoting a pharmaceutical drug we hear the words, “ask your doctor if such and such drug is right for you”. There’s growing evidence that sitting – yes sitting – may be more detrimental to our health than even smoking. Exercise has been described as the best medicine (I would say nutrition). Perhaps we should run a commercial along the lines of “ask your doctor if exercise is right for you” or “ask your doctor if getting off you bottom is right for you”. But I like Bill Maher’s recommendation. We’ve linked to this video before in The Answer Isn’t Another Pill, but will do it again – it’s a rant by Bill Maher against pharmaceutical companies (go to 3:07 and listen to his version of getting people off their bottoms).
Do You Sit More than 4 Hours a Day?
Who doesn’t sit more than 4 hours these days? In fact, the average American sits 9.5 hours a day. Throw in another 8 hours of being prone or supine while sleeping and you can conclude that a vast majority of us are not terribly physically active.
But 4 hours of sitting a day is a magic threshold you don’t want to reach because it is associated with higher rates of chronic disease. But here’s the catch with 4 hours or more of sitting. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh or exercise, you cannot overcome its harm. In other words, maintaining an ideal weight or exercising daily (even vigorous exercise) does not offset the harmful health effects of sitting more than 4 hours a day. But, sitting only three hours a day can increase life expectancy two years.
So it looks like this website is slowly killing me. I spend 15 to 20 hours a week sitting behind a computer just working on this site not to mention all the sitting I do listening to patients throughout the week and then all the sitting I do filling out a bunch of unnecessary paperwork that comes with being in medicine.
Health Effects of Sitting
The linked article above based on Dr. James Levine’s work at the Mayo Clinic talks about increase risk of colon cancer (breast cancer is another one that is linked to inactivity) in addition to musculoskeletal changes including the development of poor posture, compromised blood circulation, and mental sluggishness all from sitting too much.
Want to Live Longer? Don’t Sit
So if you have a sedentary job try to find creative ways to stay more active. Do some work standing up. Take breaks and walk around the office as much as you can. Do some stretches or calisthenics. Take the stairs and not the elevator. Just stay in motion. A body in motion stays in motion, right? At least longer than one that doesn’t move much!
During my sports medicine fellowship the physicians at the clinic (Hughston Orthopaedic Clinic) I trained at had a saying. At the end of a patient’s office visit the doctors would say to them, “Keep on keeping on!” So keep moving and live longer!