Do You Sit Too Much?
BY: Daryn Eller
Stiff joints, achy muscles, numb limbs -- all familiar side effects of too much time spent parked in a chair. But did you know that sitting too much may actually shorten your life as well? That's the conclusion of a surprising new study conducted by the American Cancer Society.
After tracking 123,000 people, researchers found that women who reported sitting more than six hours per day were 37 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who sat fewer than three hours a day -- even if they got regular exercise. Men were 18 percent more likely to die early.
When participants reported sitting for long hours without engaging in a regular exercise routine, the results were even worse: Women and men who sat for six hours a day and didn’t work out were, respectively, 94 and 48 percent more likely to die early compared with those who sat fewer hours and were very physically active.
"Being active is beneficial -- this we know from many years of research, not just from this study," says lead researcher Alpa V. Patel, who is an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society. "But our study also showed that being active combined with sitting less was better." This may be because sitting has been shown to negatively affect cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, leptin (the hormone that helps govern appetite) and other factors associated with obesity and cardiac disease.
So what do you do if you have a desk job or are otherwise stuck sitting in a chair for six or more hours per day? "For optimal health and longevity, adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week," says Patel. That averages out to a minimum of 20 minutes a day. "Additionally, this study suggests that reducing time spent sitting will add additional benefit. Our study showed that less than three hours a day [of sitting] had the lowest risk."
A few suggestions to get your daily dose of movement:
- Set an alarm on your computer that will remind you to stand up or walk around for a few minutes once every hour.
- Take a 20-minute midday stroll if you simply can’t get up every hour. It gets your blood flowing and counts toward your daily out-of-chair quota.
- Work standing up. Lore has it that Thomas Jefferson and Ernest Hemingway, among others, used a raised desk so they could stand while working.
- Skip interoffice phone and email. When you want to discuss something with a colleague at work, get up and walk to their desk instead.
- Use your feet instead of sitting in a car if you have to run an outside errand that’s within walking distance.
- Choose leisure activities that don't involve sitting: Go to a bowling alley instead of a movie theater, a dance class rather than a concert, or a museum as opposed to a spectator sports arena.
Daryn Eller is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well and has written for O, Prevention, Health and Natural Health magazines. She lives in Venice, Calif.
Recipe of the Week
- Greek yogurt has twice the protein of regular yogurt because it takes 3 to 4 times more milk to make it. Celebrate June Dairy Month with Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries.
- Bok Choy, also known as Chinese cabbage or pak choi, has been grown in China for over 6,000 years. Choose firm stalks, avoiding brown spots and wilted leaves, and add to stir-fry.
- Apple skin is full of fiber & Alzheimer’s-disease-fighting antioxidants -- so eat it! Refrigerate in a plastic bag away from foods with strong odors; they absorb odors easily.
- Collards, mustard greens and kale are available in bags, pre-washed & chopped -- so they’re easy to steam or saute! Eat your greens as a side dish or in quesadillas, soups & stews.
- Avocados are rich in 20 nutrients and great beyond guacamole. Chop for a ham, egg and cheese wrap; slice for a deli roast beef sandwich; cube and toss into linguini and shrimp.
- Black-eyed Peas: Fresh, canned and frozen varieties are all nutrient-rich options -- making it easier to eat your daily veggies. Rinse and drain canned peas to cut down on salt.
- Ugli Fruit, beautiful benefits! Peel & eat for fiber & vitamin C. Choose fruit heavy for size; dents normal and color not important. Store on counter 5 days or refrigerate 2 weeks.
- Radicchio, also known as Italian chicory, is high in vitamin K for bone health. Great in salads: Choose bright, tender leaves; avoid brown or limp ones. Refrigerate up to 3 days.
- Cherimoya, a high-fiber tropical fruit, tastes like a mix of strawberry and mango. Choose firm, unblemished fruit, cut in wedges and spoon out creamy flesh.
- Kale in lentil soup is a double dose of New Year’s luck! Round-shaped lentils symbolize coins; kale, paper money. Both are packed with antioxidants for a year of healthy fortune.
- Tea is native to China, but Americans invented tea bags and first drank iced tea at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Enjoy hot and reap health benefits from both black & green tea.
- Dried Plums (formerly prunes) may help prevent cancer and decrease inflammation. Slice fruit, stuff with cheese and walnuts, and wrap in prosciutto to make quick party appetizers.
- Oatmeal month is officially January. Cook breakfast oatmeal with 1% milk for extra protein, calcium and vitamin D -- or enjoy whole-grain oatmeal raisin cookies as a smart snack.
- Spices and herbs add antioxidants to every dish. One tsp. ground cinnamon contains as many antioxidants as 1/2 cup blueberries; 1 tsp. yellow curry as many as 1/2 cup red grapes.
- Fish, the best source of omega-3 fats for heart and brain health, may even help ward off depression. Mix canned white tuna, salmon and sardines for an omega-rich seafood salad.
- Orange juice is filled with immune-boosting nutrients that fight colds and the flu: vitamins C and B6, folate, potassium and magnesium. Choose 100% juice with no added sugar.
- Walnuts are a significant source of plant-based omega-3 fats. These fats -- also in ground flaxseed, canola oil and edamame -- provide many heart-healthy benefits.
- Pear, apple and Asian pear slices + yogurt-based dips = winning strategy for game-day parties. Combine Greek vanilla yogurt with chocolate-hazelnut spread for a fast, healthy dip.
- Pumpkin and sweet potato -- fresh, mashed or canned -- adds disease-fighting antioxidants to waffles and pancakes. Use whole-wheat flour to double your fiber and nutrient intake.
- Snack smart to achieve weight loss goals. Choose fast and fully edible fruits like grapes, apples, persimmon and kiwi. Yes, fuzzy kiwi skin is edible! Simply wash and rub dry.
What kind of water do you usually drink?