Last week, I watched the movie “Birdman” at the local public library. As I walked into the room where the movie was shown, I saw roughly 10 people sitting in the front row of the room within a few feet of the movie screen. There were about another 10 people in the rows behind them.
There were roughly 10 empty chairs in the room. I decided to stand for two reasons — a few of the people would block my view no matter where I sat and I have recently read that sitting is bad for your health. The librarian pointed to an empty chair as if I was unaware that there were empty chairs in the room. “You can sit!” she whispered, practically begging me. I nodded my head ‘no.’ ‘I like to stand,’ I whispered. Later on, a different librarian walked into the room and kept motioning for me to sit in an empty chair. I didn’t.
Benefits of Standing
My act of intransigence that day won’t have any effect on my longevity, but believe it or not the benefits of standing instead of sitting on an everyday basis can have a profound effect on your life, according to 47, yes 47, medical studies about the link between sitting and longevity. The journal Annals of Internal Medicine published an analysis of these studies in January.
“People who sat for long periods were 24 percent more likely to have died from health problems during the studies, which lasted between one and 16 years, than people who sat less,” according an article in The Washington Post about the sitting/longevity studies.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time is so bad for your health that some medical researchers are calling sitting “the new smoking,” reports “The Health Hazards of Sitting Too Much.” That does seem like hyperbole, but an American Cancer Society study concluded that people who sit for prolonged periods during their leisure time lived two years less than people who didn’t.
The dangers of sitting too much include:
- A 91 percent increased risk of getting Type 2 diabetes
- A 13 percent increased risk of getting cancer
- An 14 percent increased risk of having heart problems
- An 18 percent increased risk of dying of cardiovascular disease
How much sitting is too much sitting? The 47 studies didn’t have a specific answer, but the lead researcher on the analysis of the 47 studies said “if you sit more than eight hours [a day], that’s probably linked to a lot of the negative health effects.” On the average, people sit 7.7 hours daily, reports “The Facts: Sit-Stand Basics.”
The most troubling finding of the study might be that sitting is a health risk even for those who are otherwise active and exercise regularly. “Even those who punctuate a long day of sitting with a vigorous workout were estimated to be 16 percent more likely to die of any cause in a given time than were those who do not sit for long,” reported “Even for the active, a long sit shortens life and erodes health.”
The bad news on exercising not counteracting the dangers of over-sitting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to the gym and exercise, particularly if you have a sedentary job at the office. People who are sedentary for most of the day, but do exercise regularly are 30 percent less likely to die than people who are sedentary for most of the day, but get little or no exercise. “The Health Hazards of Sitting Too Much” has five tips for spending less time sitting. They include:
- Walk up the stairs rather than taking an elevator.
- Get up from your desk for walking breaks throughout the day.
- Communicate with colleagues personally, after walking to see them, rather than sending them computer messages.
In addition, the American Medical Association recommends alternatives to sitting in the office, including standing desks.