Do you spend long hours sitting in front of your computer every day? If you do, then beware the chair! You could very well sit your way to an early death!

Prolonged periods of sitting increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, bowel cancer and mental fatigue. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Australian National University and Sydney University further discovered that there’s a direct link between hours of uninterrupted sitting and the likelihood of early death.

Professor Emily Banks and Associate Professor David Dunstan followed 200,000 people aged 45 and over, in a span of 3 years and found that those who sat for 11 or more hours a day, had a 40% increased risk of early death compared to those who sat for less than 4 hours a day. Those who sat for 8 hours a day, were 15% more likely to die early.

In another study, scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana analysed the lifestyles of more than 17,000 men and women for 13 years, and found that people who spent most of the day sitting are 54% more likely to die of heart attacks.

The bad news is; an hour at the gym before or after 11 hours of sitting does not cancel out the negative effects of sitting. But there’s good news – getting up and out of your chair every 20 minutes to simply stretch your legs and move for 2 minutes, DOES cancel out the health hazards of sitting!

If you think small things can’t do much damage or impact anything, then try falling asleep with a mosquito in the room. The same goes for your health. On the subject at hand,  standing up from your desk and moving around every 20 – 30 minutes can do wonders to your circulation. You don’t have to do tuck jumps over your desk or other more strenuous activities to achieve the same result!

You still need your 30-60 minutes of exercise a day, but on top of that, you need to stand up regularly. Prolonged sitting disrupts metabolic functions resulting in lower levels of HDL (good cholesterol), higher levels of triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol), and reduced insulin sensitivity. After an hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by up to 90%!

In particular, scientists at the University of Missouri identified that the act of sitting shuts off the circulation of a fat-absorbing enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, contributing to the development of obesity. We need muscle contraction to regulate the chemical processes in our bodies, otherwise things stagnate and stall.

Interestingly, in the 19th and 20th centuries, office workers mostly stood while working. Sitting was what you did when you took a short break. Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci and novelist Vladimir Nabokov all advocated standing to improve creativity and concentration. Well, it certainly worked for them and standing seemed like a good way to greatness!

Living a more healthy lifestyle is very popular these days, and a fitness program in many forms are gaining a regular following. In the digital age, most people spend their waking hours at work, sitting in front of a computer. And it’s because of this trend that stand up desks have become increasingly popular in the workplace. Models like the one shown below allow the user to sit, use a stool or to stand while working.

A standing desk option like this could add years to your life!
A standing desk option like this could add years to your life!

Don’t have time to go to the gym, hit the trail, or get on the treadmill gathering dust in one corner of your home? Then a stand up desk just might be the solution for you. You many not be moving a lot as you would in a workout routine, but it will certainly keep your body awake, and your circulation going! If you want to know more about the health hazards of sitting for long hours, then this 5-minute segment on the ABC TV program, Catalyst, will tell you about it. You can watch it here

It’s 5 minutes well spent and it just might save your life. You can even watch while standing! 

Original source: Dr. Helena Popovic