A new analysis of past studies seeks to confirm that sitting too much increases the risk of “hospitalizations, all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer in adults independent of physical activity.”
We’ve known from past studies that “standing during the day not only burns double the number of calories as sitting, but also has some long-lasting healthy benefits for the body.”
We’ve been told that a minimum of 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week will counteract many health issues – that such minimal exercise will help stave off cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. But, now we’re hearing that what we do in the other 15 and a half hours of the day is just as important, or more so, than the time we spend exercising.
The idea is emerging that, even if you do go to the gym after work, it won’t counteract the ill effects of sitting all day. Studies have shown that sitting in office chairs, using computers, reading, talking on the phone, and watching TV have negative effects on our ability to burn fat and cholesterol.
It appears that physical inactivity throughout the day stimulates disease-promoting processes, and that exercising, even for an hour a day, is not sufficient to reverse the effect.
According to Marc Hamilton, an associate professor of biomedical sciences, actively exercising is not the only way to improve your health – just standing and other non-exercise activities burn calories in most adults even if those people don’t exercise.
“The enzymes in blood vessels of muscles responsible for ‘fat burning’ are shut off within hours of not standing,” Hamilton said. “Standing and moving lightly will re-engage the enzymes, but since people are awake 16 hours a day, it stands to reason that when people sit much of that time, they are losing the opportunity for optimal metabolism throughout the day.”
Recently, an new meta-analysis examined 14 studies measuring the effects of sitting on cardiovascular disease and diabetes, 14 cancer studies, and 13 studies that looked at all causes of death.
The analysis confirmed that for each of these serious outcomes, sitting all day increased the risk regardless of outside exercise:
Prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity.
Going to the gym and getting active exercise are still very good for you in many ways. But sitting all day is a much more serious risk than we realized before.
As University Hospitals Case Medical Center’s Director of Wellness, Roy Buchinsky, says, sitting is the new smoking.
“Whereas smoking was public enemy number one,” says Buchinsky. “The ‘sitting sickness’ is now becoming epidemic.”