“Sedentary lifestyle” might as well be a curse word at this point. We know that sedentary lifestyles are linked with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and stroke. The CDC is continually pushing us (begging us, it seems like), to get our recommended 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity exercise.
But that may not be enough—at least, not if we spend the rest of our time plopped down comfortably on our backsides. That’s because prolonged periods of sitting is linked with greater risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and early death. The average American sits for about eight hours per day, and those hours aren’t kind to our health.
What’s perhaps most worrisome is that prolonged sitting increases risk even if we’re loading up on high-intensity exercise in our free time.
Why is sitting so bad?
Time spent not moving is independently associated with metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors. Insulin sensitivity decreases after just one day of extended sitting. When we move, our bodies start to breakdown fats and sugars. But when we don’t move, those same fats and sugars don’t move. This contributes to both weight gain and high blood sugar.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that all adults interrupt sitting periods every 30 minutes to improve blood glucose levels, especially for those with type 2, but many times that’s simply not possible.
Doing jumping jacks all day is not an option unless you have a very unique vocation. But there are ways to combat the dangers of sitting without popping up every 10 seconds. Check our seven tips to get your blood moving:
1. Elevate your legs
One of the dangers of prolonged sitting is its unwanted contribution to poor circulation. Blood can pool in your legs when you’re sitting, so try sitting with legs slightly elevated (you don’t have to go into full recliner mode) to help blood circulate more evenly. If your blood is circulating, you’ll be less prone to light-headedness when you do get up, and promoting good circulation helps prevent the complications of diabetic neuropathy.
2. Try seated exercise
The problems that come with sitting aren’t simply because your backside in a chair is an irrevocable equation for doom. The problem is the lack of movement. Your muscles need to move so that they can suck up more glucose from your blood. Your blood needs to flow. Your body needs some movement!
But it may be that you can’t get up when you’re at work or when you’re driving. Still, you can get your blood flowing even if you can’t disconnect from your chair. Try marching in your chair, squeezing and releasing muscles, pumping your arms at regular intervals, or some of these chair exercises.
Your body was made to move. When you sit still too long you’ll develop aches and pains, so seated movement is a positive step, and achievable in almost all situations.
“NEXT” for ways to stay healthy when you sit!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.