Is sitting the new smoking?

In recent months I have been reading on Natural News and elsewhere two different health tips:

  • One should walk 10,000 steps per day
  • One should not sit for long periods – either get up at least once every 20 minutes or so, or just stand and do what you would normally do sitting – using the computer, working in the office etc.

Then, last night I heard an interview podcast with Dr. Joseph Mercola on Red Ice Radio, who also discussed the same topics.

From this article on what 10 everyday items to throw out, Dr. Mercola lists your chair as No. 10:

“While I placed this last, mounting research clearly reveals that your chair may actually be one of the most dangerous items to have around for your health. Prolonged sitting has repeatedly been shown to be an independent risk factor for chronic disease and early demise, even if you exercise regularly and are very fit. That’s right; exercise cannot undo the damage caused by hours of daily sitting, just like it cannot undo the harm done by smoking.  

Along with obesity, sitting is the new smoking, increasing your risk for lung cancer by more 50 percent.20 Who would have guessed that sitting is far more dangerous than second hand smoke? Sitting has been found to increase your risk of death from virtually all health problems,21,22 from type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease to cancer and all-cause mortality. And, the less you exercise, the more pronounced the detrimental effects of sitting.  

What’s the solution?

Stand up as much as possible. A standing desk is one option. Barring that, make sure you stand up at regular intervals during work hours. For a number of other tips and tricks, see my previous article, “Tips for Staying Active in the Office.” As a general rule, if you’ve been sitting for one hour, you’ve sat too long. At bare minimum, avoid sitting for more than 50 minutes out of every hour. If you don’t already have a fitness tracker, it may be money well spent to get one. I recommend aiming for 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day, over and above any exercise regimen you may have. I was probably doing 2,000 steps a day prior to using a fitness tracker, and now I am up to about 15,000 steps a day or about eight miles.

For many, simply getting and staying out of your chair is a first step that can bring you closer to a healthier lifestyle. As you become more used to low level, non-exercise activity, you’re more likely to get motivated enough to start exercising more vigorously. “

To this end I installed an Android app called Runtastic, which counts how many steps you make.  Limitations are that the free version will only allow one session per day, so if the phone restarts you lose what you have counted so far, but cannot start again to the next day.  After monitoring myself for a week, I find I do about 7,000 steps per day if I go for a walk somewhere.  Dr. Mercola says 7,000 is enough actually.

And, apart from driving, or watching a film, I do try to stand.  If my legs or feet get tired I sit for a short while, and then get up again.  I’m not sure  how to judge if this is good for me. So, after a week or two I notice no difference – but I feel virtuous.  As I write this today at 10PM, I have done just over 10,000 steps and 7.2 KM since I remembered to turn on the app about 10AM. So in reality probably over 11,000 steps.

 

 

 

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