It turns out our parents were right; we really should turn off the TV and go outside to play. Those who do have a much higher probability to enjoy a long, healthy life.
If you spend most of your day sitting, you are doubling your risk of heart disease. Combining the time it takes to commute to work, the time spent sitting in front of a computer, and the time devoted to watching television, many able-bodied people spend in excess of ten hours a day sitting.
As documented in the January 18, 2011, edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who spend more than four hours per day in a sitting position are 125 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who spend less than two hours sitting.
The study of 4,512 adults in Scotland reveals that not even exercise can make up for too much time sitting. Those who exercise regularly but still spent significant amounts of time sitting face the same consequences as those who rarely exercise.
What is the cause for this dramatically higher risk of heart disease? In part, the problem may be connected to the lifestyle of sedentary people. When a person is bound to a desk or routinely unwinds in front of the TV, it can be easy for unhealthy habits to emerge. These can include such things as smoking, overeating, and indulging on junk food.
Another factor to consider is that the body needs to be mobile in order to function properly. The body’s ability to break down sugars and fats, for example, is impacted by the amount of moving around a person does. By limiting your amount of movement, you are limiting what your body can accomplish.
Countering these risk factors may not be easy. If your work requires you to spend several hours per day in front of a computer screen, you may feel like you have no alternative. You can, however, make subtle changes that can make a big difference.
For instance, consider using a standing desk. Standing desks, which were popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, have been enjoying a renaissance in recent years. As the name implies, standing desks are intended to be used from the standing position. This frees you to step away from the computer from time to time and move across the room. Many people find this added freedom helps them to think and to process information. A high stool can come in handy as a periodic alternative to standing.
Over the past decade, some business executives have been experimenting with holding meetings with everyone standing instead of sitting around a table. The initial objective was to cut down on time wasted with needless chatter, but a secondary benefit is the reduction of time sitting.
If you tend to cap off your day in front of the television, look for ways to add some activity to your evening. Before you turn on the TV, how about going for a walk? That by itself will save you from a good 30 to 60 minutes of sitting. Or why not do some household chores around the house while the TV is on? You don’t have to be motionless in order to enjoy the show. During commercial breaks, take advantage of the opportunity to get up, stretch, and move around.
There are even solutions for those of us who spend hours playing video games. The most popular video game consoles today include games that are meant to be played while standing. Some games use mats or pads to stand on; others use motion-sensitive controllers that require players to move around.
See what solutions you can devise. Be creative. Look for ways to get out of your chair and add more movement to your day.