According to a survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health, more than 60% of American adults spend their waking hours sedentary. Actually, the average adult sits for six hours a day. And this lack of movement — hours in front of the computer or TV — is creating some serious health problems for us all.
1. It can make you gain weight.
Sitting all day and not exercising? Well, it’s messing with your ability to lose weight. The longer you hang out in your chair day to day, the more your body adapts to reduced physical demands, thus your metabolism ultimately slows down.
Fortunately there is an easy fix: Stand up more. According to Mike Loosemore, a sports doctor at London’s University College Hospital, standing burns almost an extra calorie per minute versus sitting. That means if you stood an additional three hours a day, five days a week, you could lose more than 30,000 calories a year — over 8.5 pounds! That’s the equivalent of running 10 marathons.
2. It makes it harder for blood to travel to your heart.
When you sit all day, your muscles slacken and your overall blood circulation decreases. This causes blood to pool in your legs, which can damage the endothelial function of your arteries and eventually impair your blood vessels’ ability to expand. Even scarier: Researchers found that arteries were damaged by up to 50% after just one hour of sitting.
The good news is that researchers from Indiana University found that even a brief five-minute stroll can help decrease and restore arterial function and muscle activity that aids in blood flow.
3. It increases your chances of developing several chronic diseases.
According to the World Heath Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is the fourth leading factor of global mortality, and is believed to be the cause of more than 25% of cases of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes, and 30% of heart disease. Sitting too long is also linked to high cholesterol, which increases the risk for heart disease. In an Ohio State University study, researchers found that the body is unable to convert LDL (or bad cholesterol) into HDL (good cholesterol) after hours of prolonged sitting, which can increase your risk of a heart attack by 30%.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. But even if you aren’t getting your recommended amount of physical activity, just sitting less and standing more can decrease your risk for a handful of problems like diabetes, stroke, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
4. It could double your risk of a heart attack.
And the numbers are frightening. According to an analysis of 18 studies and almost 800,000 participants, those who were sedentary (compared to those who were more physically active) had a 147% increased risk in cardiovascular disease, including a 90% higher risk of death due to a cardiovascular event.
5. It’s linked to higher mortality rates.
Over the span of 14 years, one study followed 53,440 men and 69,776 women to determine the effect of reduced activity and sitting to their mortality rates. The female participants who sat more than six hours a day and participated in low levels of physical activity were 94% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Even worse: New research published in Annals of Internal Medicine has found that even low levels of activity won’t help combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. That means you could sit for eight to ten hours a day, do some light cardio in the evening, and still be faced with a higher risk of mortality.
Want to decrease your risk? The study’s authors suggest going on a brief walk for every 30 minutes that you’re sitting, and to get up and move around during commercial breaks when watching TV.