all day sittingYou’ve heard the back and forth – one side says sitting all day is the modern equivalent of smoking.

The other side says it’s not that bad, and anyway, standing has its own drawbacks.

What’s the truth? Just how bad is sitting all day? What can you do to counteract its effects?

In this article, we’re going to take a hard, honest look at what sitting all day really does to your body, and what it means to you.

The Impact of Sitting All Day

Here’s the truth: recent studies have linked sitting all day with some very serious physical conditions that can and will shorten your life:

  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic illness
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Mental health issues
  • And a shorter life expectancy overall

But that’s not all. People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than people with standing jobs.

In fact, sitting for six hours or more increases your risk of death by 40% - that’s forty percent – over people who sit for less than three hours.

Which makes you wonder, just what’s happening in your body when you sit down?

What’s Happening in Your Body

As soon as you sit down, the electrical activity in your legs shuts down. Just as importantly, you start burning one calorie a minute. One calorie every minute, and that’s all.

And the enzymes that help your body burn fat drop by 90%. All of that happens as soon as you sit down.

Once you’ve been sitting for two hours, your good cholesterol levels drop by 20%. But don’t think that this is a good thing and helps lower cholesterol the way your doctor wants.

The cholesterol that drops after you’ve been sitting for two hours is the healthy kind, the HDLs, that you want higher.

After six hours, blood flow in the legs and lower body is diminished.

So you should stand all day, right? Well….no. You shouldn’t stand all day, either. Standing all day is really no better than sitting all day.

When you stand all day, say longer than two hours, you are at greater risk for a compressed spine, lower back issues, carotid artery disease, deep vein thrombosis, and more.

If you can’t sit all day, and you can’t stand all day, what are you supposed to do all day?

What You Can Do

The good news is that there are steps you can take, even if you have an office job or spend a lot of time sitting.

1. First and foremost, MOVE. Simply decide you aren’t going to be sitting all day. There is no such thing as too much activity or movement. Take walks, skip the elevator, park far away. Take walking meetings, instead of scheduling meetings where everyone sits around the table. If you get a phone call, wander the living room while you talk.

2. Instead of sitting all day, take several short walks throughout the day. Don’t wait for a meeting or a phone call. Get up and take a lap – around your house, your block, your office. It doesn’t matter where or why. Aim for at least ten minutes of walking. Again, this isn’t aerobic exercise that gets your heart moving (or it doesn’t have to be anyway). This is just a stroll from one end of the hall to the other, a couple times.

3. While you are sitting, remember to fidget. Just bouncing a leg or changing position can help keep all your systems functioning at a better level than simply sitting all day. If you’re going to be sitting all day, consider investing in a stability ball. Sure, they’re usually used in the gym but they make great office chairs – and they keep your body moving!

4. Stand up every hour. If you really can’t leave your desk – or the airplane, or wherever – you still don’t have to resign yourself to sitting all day. Instead, stand up for ten minutes every hours. Sit for fifty minutes, then stand. You can still be in one place, but the change helps counter the damage sitting for so long is doing. Just remember to keep fidgeting while you stand, too!

5. Think in terms of overall activity, not just exercise. Yes, you still need your thirty minutes of aerobic activity every day. But it’s not enough to get that and then keep sitting the rest of the day. Eight hours of sitting at the office, followed by another three or four in front of the television, just isn’t counteracted by a single thirty minute workout. Shoot for taking 10,000 steps every day, rather than taking your thirty minute walk or swim and forgetting about the rest of the day.

6. Spend at least four hours during the day not sitting. This is on top of your thirty minutes of planned aerobic activity, remember. And it doesn’t have to be four hours straight. It just needs to be four hours total. Four hours broken up into ten minute walks, and time standing up, and stretching, and taking the stairs… You get the idea. But four hours is your goal.

Sitting all day is bad for you. Standing all day is bad for you, too. Don’t get trapped into thinking you have to do one or the other. You don’t! Instead, refuse to sit all day – and move instead!