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Sitting is the New Smoking

by Dr. Matthew Varner

Woman sitting at deskThe painful reality: Over 25% of American adults sit for more than 8 hours every day and 44% of those people get little to no exercise. They barely walk 5000 steps a day and watch approximately 3 hours of screen time. The average American is active less than 20 minutes every day. Does this sound like maximizing your god-given brain and body function?

A 2011 study documented 800,000 people and their sitting habits. The study found that people who sit the most, compared to people who sit the least, have a greater risk of disease and death:

  • 112% increased risk of diabetes.
  • 147% increased risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
  • 90% increased risk of death from cardiovascular events.
  • 49% increased risk of death from any cause.

The negative effects of sitting are many: blood flow slows, decreasing oxygen and nutrients to your brain and organs. This also allows pooling of oxidative molecules in the bloodstream causing oxidative stress and heart disease. Sitting for extended periods of time, regularly may lead to insulin resistance which can cause type 2 diabetes and obesity which are two risk factors for heart disease.

A 2018 study found that 82% of people who suffer from blood clots, sat for a significantly greater amount of time than the remaining 18%.Your body’s ability to process fats is slowed. When you sit, your body’s production of lipoprotein lipase (an enzyme essential for breaking down fat) drops by about 90%. When your body cannot break down fat, it is stored instead.

It is no news that 2/3 of the United States is statistically overweight or obese and will die of either cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or stroke. So why aren’t people taking action in their own lives and being intentional about their lifestyle to reduce this risk? Awareness is one factor but also strategy, education and motivation are others.

There is a particular side of this equation that you can easily control and that is the amount of sitting you engage in any given day. There are many different companies that create economic set ups for your workplace or home as well as standup desks and chairs. Using your smartphone, or your smart watch you can set an alert when to stand and when to walk. You can even download apps onto your phone to remind you! I posture is key, being intentional and being aware of your posture during the day can be very helpful. Making sure to stay erect with shoulders back. Having a manual, hands-on chiropractor is a necessity for all. Chiropractors can help to maintain erect posture. Increase blood flow and decrease pain from stiff and sore muscles caused by sitting and poor posture.

Politely pressure your company to either get you a standing desk or ask if you can invest in your own and bring it in to your office. Standing desks have been shown to increase brain function, creativity and speed of processing. Commit to walking every single day 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. Also park farther away at your place of employment so you can walk a little bit further. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go on a walk during lunch. You can get a lot of mileage in in the week for walking for 45 minutes during lunch. Companies are using treadmills in place of chairs while employees work. Also, some forward thinking corporations are allowing for full standup desk areas as a choice.

There is no excuse to sit for two hours at a time three hours at a time in today’s world. Well, unless you’re in an airplane. I would hate to be a pilot! Just 60-75 minutes of moderate activity (steady walking) can counter the effects of too much sitting during the day. Be intentional about how often you sit.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Mayo Clinic

University of Leicester

Beaumont Health

Bureau of Labor Statistics

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