Have you been reading the headlines in recent years about the problem of too much sitting? There’s been a lot of research published on this topic. Sitting is no longer viewed as just a passive-but-harmless thing, it’s more like a clear and present danger to our health.
Too Much Sitting Is Killing Us
- Too much sitting is bad for your health, increasing your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, several cancers and early death, as well as reducing emotional well being – even if you exercise regularly.
- It isn’t just that we aren’t burning enough calories when we sit. It’s that our bodies change in several unhealthy ways when we sit. Our metabolism, body chemistry and blood sugar change for the worse, and even our body composition is altered (storing more fat around the waist, which we know is the worst place to gain).
There are lots of great articles around based on the research of too much sitting’s deleterious effects. I’m not a doctor or scientist so I won’t try to explain them all. Suffice it to say that all the info coming from several studies recently has convinced me to alter my habits to reduce how often and how long I sit.
I feel very fortunate that I don’t have to work 8 hours a day sitting at a desk. If I did, I would set an alarm to sound every hour so I could walk, do jumping jacks or stretch. I’ve also made some lifestyle choices that limit sitting. For instance, not having TV means I don’t sit and watch it. I also walk every day for at least one mile.
Still, I do more sitting than I should. Some of the changes I’ve made in my routine:
- I started doing more computer work standing up with my laptop on the kitchen counter. (I’m writing this post standing up.) Standing takes more work than sitting, and we’re almost never perfectly still when we stand. We shift from one leg to another, fidget, stand on our toes, lift our feet, etc.
- Instead of always sitting on the sofa to read to the kids or play with the toddler, I often sit on the floor and stretch my legs. Most of us have very tight hamstrings from too much sitting and from wearing shoes with heels. It’s easy to put your legs into a wide “V” and stretch your thighs. Sitting tailor style is healthier than sitting on a soft cushy sofa. This is easy to do while you build block towers or do puzzles with the wee ones.
- More squatting. Squatting is fabulous for pregnant women, but everyone in our culture should squat more. Many people have hamstrings so tight (again, from sitting too much and wearing shoes with heels) that they CAN’T squat without falling over. If you can’t squat, then you probably have several other problems (like back pain, plantar fascitis, even pelvic floor issues like pee sneezes) that could be helped by stretching your hamstrings and squatting.Katy Bowman has awesome information and videos on her site about squatting, avoiding too much sitting and just general body mechanics. I’ve learned so much from reading her blog. I have three of her exercise/stretching DVDs and they’re excellent. I recommend reading everything on her site, but first search the blog for the word “sitting” and read those if you want a biomechanical scientist’s perspective.
- Breaking up periods of sitting with bursts of activity such as housework. Sometimes sitting is inevitable. We drive in cars, sit to nurse a baby (usually), sit to eat in a restaurant. Now a little alarm goes off in my head if I sit for too long, so I jump up and do a blitz of housework or take a short walk outside. Here are some ways to naturally and easily add more movement to your day.
Just being more aware generally of staying active, not just while I’m exercising, has changed some of my habits.
Recommended: Katy Bowman’s books about healthy movement
Have you been reading about the dangers of too much sitting? How do you counteract this in your daily life?