One in four American adults sits for more than eight hours a day, according to a study conducted by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention. The effects of sitting too much are harmful to our physical and mental well-being.
What’s even more troubling is, while “about 1 in 4 sit for more than 8 hours a day, 4 in 10 are physically inactive, and 1 in 10 report both.”
According to Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.,co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, citing an analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels:
Those who sit for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity have a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.
However, when people exercised, this counteracted those effects. The more we exercise, the fewer ill effects sitting too much has on us.
I’m sitting as I write this article. I’m active and healthy, but sitting for long periods is not doing me any favors. In fact, it’s causing me some pain right now as I type this.
Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.
Sitting in a chair all day is like long-distance running. Not everyone can do it, and nobody can do it forever.
The human body can do amazing stuff. But not everything we can do is beneficial to our health.
As with most things in life, there is a point of diminishing returns.
Sitting down when you are tired =GOOD
Sitting at a desk all day = BAD
Running out of a burning house = GOOD
Long-distance running too frequently (esp. when you have underlying joint or mobility issues) = BAD
DIMINISHING RETURNS OF ACTIVITIES
Look, this isn’t an anti-running article. I used to LOVE running. But since I tore my knee in 2009, I can no longer do any distance longer than 2 mi without some weird pains. Sure, I could “push through,” but since I CAN do other forms of cardio pain-free, like kettlebell swings, I don’t think that’s a smart choice.
The running and sitting analogy is about taking a deeper look at things that seem harmless in many ways. Eating fruit is harmless and good for you! Eating 15 fruits per day, probably not so good. Drinking water is vital to life! Drinking so much water, you flush out all your electrolytes can be life-ending when taken to the extreme.
The same goes for sitting and running. I love a good “sit,” especially one with a cat on my lap, and petting cats is shown to reduce blood pressure. I’m not sure about the diminishing returns of sitting while petting cats but, I’m willing to test that out for you. I’ll report back. 😉
For many, running may not be the best choice of cardio if joint or mobility issues are present. For others, it’s perfectly healthy.
According to cardiologist James O’Keefe, “long-term excessive endurance exercise may induce pathologic structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries.”
Basically, too much of a good thing is bad for you, and this definitely rings true for the simple acts of sitting, standing, lying, exercising, hydrating, eating, not eating, and even thinking – just to name a few.
HOW MUCH NON-SITTING EXERCISE IS GOOD?
The recommended amount of exercise, for an adult aged 18-64, according to the CDC, is:
A minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking or hiking) and at least 2 days a week of strength (resistance) training.
That’s about 20-25 minutes of cardio every day or 50 minutes three times per week, plus strength training.
Although I regularly exercise, I’ve been sitting more than usual for work the past couple of years. Sitting more for work as an online personal trainer is my choice, and I am responsible for my choices.
However, now due to my occupational choices and less than optimal working habits, I struggle with more nagging aches and pains than when I was competing as a professional fighter!
From a stiff neck and tailbone pain to carpal tunnel, eye strain, and golfers elbow, my body is clearly telling me I’m over my sitting quota. So, because I aim to take responsibility for my choices and actions, I’ve been trying everything I can think of to manage my work habits and counteract sitting’s ill-effects.
I’ll admit, some days are better than others, i.e., I’m still working on getting the balance right. However, for those of you battling this, too, here are some things I’ve found helpful thus far to counteract my increased sitting volume.
9 WAYS TO COUNTERACT THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF SITTING:
- Theragun – I can’t thank my boyfriend enough for buying this for us!
- A vertical mouse and split keyboard (life-changing!)
- A memory foam seat cushion
- A magnetic digital one-dial kitchen timer (for screen break)
- This awesome IG account with awesome prehab/rehab exercises: @drkatie_clare
- A standing desk (DYI version I “built” in my garage by stacking a wooden wine crate on top of my weight bench)
- Switching to my iPad for some tasks (to reduce mouse use)
- Breaking up my computer work with daily chores (I work from home)
- Doing some activity daily.
- Listening to audiobooks and online course material while working out, instead of sitting and reading or watching
How do you avoid or counteract sitting all day?
– x Roxy
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washingtron, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
Laskowski, E.R. (2020, Aug 21). What are the risks of sitting too much?. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005
Ussery, E.N., Fulton, J.E, Galuska, D.A. et al. (2018, Nov 20). Joint prevalence of sitting time and leisure-time physical activity among US adults. JAMA. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2715582
O’Keefe, J.H. MD, Patil, H.R. MD, Lavie C.J.MD, Magalski, A.MD, Vogel, R.A.MD, McCullough, P.A.MD, (2012, June 1). Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise. Mayo Clinic ,87, 587-595. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2012.04.005