You Should Be Sitting Less
Health Insurance Insights | 05-02-19

You Should Be Sitting Less

Through work, home, and various recreational activities, it can be difficult to spend your day without spending a majority of the time sitting, but as it turns out, sitting may be causing severe health issues. There's a direct relationship between time spent sitting and your risk of early mortality, researchers said, based on a study of nearly 8,000 adults. As your total sitting time increases, so does your risk of an early death.

Through work, home, and various recreational activities, it can be difficult to spend your day without spending a majority of the time sitting, but as it turns out, sitting may be causing severe health issues. There's a direct relationship between time spent sitting and your risk of early mortality, researchers said, based on a study of nearly 8,000 adults. As your total sitting time increases, so does your risk of an early death.

It is easy for us to say "Sit less, move more," as the American Heart Association encourages all of us to do. But that doesn’t mean that this guideline is by any means easy. Despite the intensity of our daily lifestyles though, there are things you can do to reduce the risk. For instance, by simply getting up and walking around a bit every thirty minutes, you can significantly reduce your risk of negative effects.

With exercise guidelines there are precise measurable goals. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for example, recommends that everyone spend 30 minutes a day doing moderately strenuous aerobic exercise, It may sound simple, but even 30 minutes is not always easy. As we age, our physical and mental functions decline, we become more and more sedentary, and studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and early death. Sitting for long periods is also thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and break down body fat.

Many adults spend more than seven hours a day sitting or lying, and this typically increases with age to 10 hours or more. Sedentary activity includes watching TV, using a computer, reading, doing homework, and travelling, but does not include sleeping.

Move more, sit less

Experts recommend breaking up long periods of sitting time with shorter bouts of activity for just one to two minutes. However, there is currently not enough evidence to set a maximum limit on how much time people should sit each day.

Recent research has suggested that exercising at least 60 minutes a day can offset the negative effects of sitting too much throughout the day, however, this amount of time can be difficult with a busy life. Even exercising just 30 minutes a day will make a drastic difference.

The link between illness and sitting first emerged in the 1950s, when researchers found that bus drivers in London were twice as likely to have heart attacks as the conductors on those same busses.

Research on this continued into the early 70’s when astronauts’ life in zero gravity was linked with bone loss and early aging.

The research on NASA astronauts suggests that on their return from space, even light walking was effective in overcoming the negative effects of weightlessness.

There has been an explosion of research on the negative effects of sitting in the past few years, that was prompted by the fact that people are sitting more than ever. It is thought that sitting for too long each day will slow your metabolism, which affects your ability to regulate blood sugar and pressure, to metabolise fat, and may cause weaker muscles and bones. All things that are shown as causes of heart issues and cancer.

At this point, most of the evidence related to the effect of sitting and its connection to deadly diseases is based on observational studies, which may show correlation, but not necessarily being the cause. As research progresses, the connection may become more solidified.

Young Children

In children under five, the advice is to limit the time they spend watching TV, travelling by car, bus or train, or being strapped into a stroller. In many countries, including the United States, they recommend that young children limit time in front of screens such as TV and video games, to just one to two hours a day to avoid creating habits of sedentary behavior.

There is new evidence that sedentary behavior such as sitting and watching television in our formative years has been associated with being overweight and obesity, as well as lower cognitive development. While keeping your children active may be a challenge for busy parents, the advice reflects growing awareness that early life experiences and habits impact our health as adults. There is a need to establish healthy patterns of behaviour during the early years in order to protect against possible health issues in the future.

Tips to reduce sitting time:

  • Try to keep time spent in infant carriers, car seats to a minimum
  • Avoid tools such as baby bouncers that keep your young children strapped down
  • Less time in front of the tv or other screens will naturally lead to less sitting
  • Specify a time daily where you and your children recreate

Older children aged 5-18

There has been a lot of research suggests that children and young people in households with multiple TVs and computers tend to sit more. For children aged 5 to 18 years, reducing sitting time includes anything that involves moving in and around the home, classroom, or community.

Tips to reduce sitting time:

  • Create incentives around screen time where your children can earn their screen time
  • Set an example by limiting your screen time while children are around
  • Make bedtime TV, phone and computer-free
  • Foer holidays, choose gifts that do not include a screen such as a scooter, skateboard,or ball to encourage active time

Adults

Staying active and not sitting may be harder as you enter the workforce. However, making small efforts to spend more time moving can significantly impact your health. Adults aged 19 to 64 are advised to try to sit down less throughout the day, including at work, when travelling and at home.

Tips to reduce sitting time:

  • Stand on the train or bus
  • Take the stairs and walk up escalators
  • Set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes and walk around
  • Use a standing desk at work
  • Stand or walk around while on the phone
  • Take a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break
  • Walk to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing or calling
  • Swap some TV time for more active tasks or hobbies

Older adults

As adults age, they tend to become more sedentary. This can cause an escalation in some of the negative health effects of aging. Some older adults (aged 65 and over) are known to spend 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary population group. It could be partly due to reduced functionality or ill health, but there are also social norms expecting those in later years to 'slow down' and rest. Which is the opposite of what they should be doing.

Older adults should aim to minimise the time they spend in extended periods of sitting each day. Sitting needs breaking up. Long periods of TV should be avoided, and you should try to do activities that involve light movement and being on your feet as much as possible.

Tips to reduce sitting time:

  • Avoid long periods sitting in front of a TV or computer
  • Stand up and move during television commercial breaks
  • Stand or walk while on the phone
  • Use the stairs as much as possible
  • Take up hobbies that encourage movement such as gardening or bird watching
  • Join in community-based activities, such as dance classes and walking groups
  • Take up active play with the grandchildren
  • Do most types of housework

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