Stand Up! All-Day Sitting is Bad for Your Health

Senior Times Magazine
by Kendra Siler-Marsiglio, PhD

As you know, “walk for your health” is now very common advice. Now studies are showing that just “standing up” provides huge health benefits.

If you take a minute to sit and think about it, you can quickly come to the conclusion that we live in a “Sit Down” society. Most of us sit down to eat, work, and socialize. Running errands? I bet you’re sitting in a car or on a bus to get around.

Here’s what science worldwide is showing about prolonged sitting: it’s wreaking havoc on our health. If you sit the amount that the average American does (over eight hours per day), the benefits of workouts you do are counteracted—even if you are exercising routinely.

The average lifespan is actually extended two more years by standing up three hours a day reports the United Kingdom’s The Independent newspaper.

A 43-study review published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that those who were highly sedentary had a 32% increased risk of endometrial cancer, 24% increased risk of colon cancer, and 21% increased risk of lung cancer. The meta-analysis also showed that for every two hours spent sitting per day, the risks of these cancers increased 6-10%. However, prolonged sitting doesn’t affect your risk of getting these cancer types: breast, ovaries, prostate, stomach, esophagus, testes, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Ever heard of telomeres? They are caps on the ends of thread-like structures that keep your genes orderly and neat (aka chromosomes). Telomeres protect the chromosomes—kinda like how those little plastic caps protect your shoelaces. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that prolonged daily sitting shortens telomeres. Scientists feel that “aging” has a lot to do with the shortening of telomeres—short telomeres means that your genes receive less protection. Again, it didn’t matter if the participants exercised; the telomere-shortening culprit was prolonged sitting.

In Australia, the University of Queensland reports that sitting less lowers your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and prematurely dying from heart disease.

Interestingly, the research that shows sitting is bad for your health is not only performed in the US, the UK, and Australia; much of it comes from space. NASA space medicine studies show that prolonged sitting simulates a low-gravity type of environment… Low-gravity causes muscle to deteriorate. On the flip side, standing and stretching increases the effects of gravity on your body, helping you maintain and build muscle.

What can you do to sit less and stand more:

Stand up every 30 minutes. Take a stretch break. Or, get some water… staying hydrated is also good!

Talk and walk (or talk and stand). Try to socialize with friends standing up. It may seem rude to not offer people a seat, but your friends may appreciate it once you tell them why.

Stand while you wait. Waiting at the doctor’s office or at a restaurant? Look for an unobtrusive place to stand. If there isn’t one, you may want to tell your doctor or other businesses with waiting rooms about sitting studies so they can consider adjusting their waiting rooms.

Consider a standing workstation. Make a space where you can stand and do bills, make calls, or surf the Internet.

Make standing a part of your “non-exercise” routine. Mayo Clinic’s Dr. James A. Levine, MD, PhD, reports that standing creates Non-Exercise Activity Thermongensis (NEAT). Standing burns 50% more calories than sitting.

Want more information on standing up for your health? Check out:

The article at the UK’s The Independent at www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stand-up-for-three-hours-and-live-two-years-longer-says-top-uk-medical-consultant-955246;

Discover Magazine’s article “Simple Sitting Test Predicts How Long You’ll Live” at discovermagazine.com/2013/nov/05-sit-down;

Dr. Levine presenting at the Transformation 2010 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6eIvxqaezE.

Stand tall to give yourself that healthy edge!

Kendra Siler-Marsiglio, Ph.D. is the Director of Rural Health Partnership at WellFlorida Council. 

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