Sitting down all day is lethal. If you sit all day and you know it, don’t gloss over this fact: you are slowly killing yourself!
Studies on prolonged sitting:
- A 2014 Study found that prolonged sitting is a major health hazard for older women (93,000 participants)
- A 2010 Study found that prolonged sitting increases mortality rates and decreases life spans across the board (120,000+ participants)
Another study was published in 2012 with 222,497 people answering a questionnaire. It too found that “prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.”
Studies unanimously show that prolonged sitting deteriorates your health and shortens your lifespan.
But why is prolonged sitting bad for us? What is the physical mechanism that makes it problematic?
“The adverse effects of prolonged sitting are thought to be mainly owing to reduced metabolic and vascular health.8 Prolonged sitting has been shown to disrupt metabolic function, resulting in increased plasma triglyceride levels, decreased levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and decreased insulin sensitivity, which appear to be at least partially mediated by changes in lipoprotein lipase activity.8,30” (Plaug, Chey, et al; JAMA)
Sitting down all day appears to do exactly the opposite of exercise, which makes sense. Exercise supercharges your vascular and metabolic functions, which improve nutrient delivery, waste processing, and essentially every bodily function. Moving about normally will keep your blood and heart pumping at an average rate to maintain your vascular health. But prolonged sitting makes all of your bodily systems stagnate.
“But I exercise regularly!”
Sorry, the aforementioned studies found the negative effect from prolonged sitting is independent of daily exercise. It isn’t enough to put in your 30 minutes of exercise every day. If you go to the gym every day, and sit for 8+ hours the rest of the day, you’re still killing yourself.
I’m not pointing a finger. I’m guilty too. And I’m not here to place a burden of guilt on anyone: we all have enough things to worry about, don’t we? I’ve come bearing a gift: it’s an easy solution to this problem; a solution you can’t say no to.
The reason we sit all day is obvious—work, computers, and TVs. There are fancy solutions like stand-up and treadmill desks, but for most people those aren’t practical or possible right now. This solution is for everyone. It’s the free and easy 10 second trick I’ve been using to save my own life.
The 10 Second Life-Saver
Once per hour, get up and move around or dance for 10 seconds.
Not 5 minutes. Not 1 minute. Just 10 seconds, because it’s small enough that you’ll actually do it. Count slowly.
How do I know 10 seconds is good enough? I can feel it. After I move vigorously for 10 seconds, I can feel everything moving. My heart pumps faster. My alertness increases. I get an energy burst. It’s like I’m reminding my metabolic systems not to shut down and my blood not to stagnate. Keep it moving!
Can you take 10 seconds from each hour to save your life? If you’re worried about productivity, the increased blood flow to the brain from doing this will more than make up for any time “lost.” You’re going to find that these little 10 second spurts add up. You might enjoy yourself so much that you extend beyond 10 seconds, which will benefit you further.
I recommend dancing as it’s fun and great exercise. Turn on a favorite song and get
moving groovin’! You can also run in place, move about randomly, do jumping jacks, or pump out a few push-ups.
After the first week, you’ll probably have more energy throughout the day. And you might look forward to your breaks. You might get in tune with your body and begin to feel your metabolic systems slowly coming to a halt, and want to get up and move before you’re reminded. I say this because it’s been my experience!
According to the studies on prolonged sitting, and the fact that daily exercise isn’t enough to overcome the surprising danger of doing it, blood stagnation appears to be the key problem. This “trick” is a lifesaver because it prevents your vascular system from becoming stagnant.
In order to do this, of course, you need a reminder system to prompt you to get up and move. Here’s how you can easily set it up for every major platform.
This is my platform, so I’ve already figured out something that works very well.
Set your mac to announce the time on the hour, every hour. The computer will say, “it’s 9 O’ Clock.” When you hear this message, get up immediately and move vigorously for 10 seconds. To set it up on Mavericks OS is a quick and easy two steps (it’s likely similar or the same on older OSX versions).
Step 1: Open up System Preferences and Click on “Date & Time”
Step 2: Select the clock tab and tick the box to “announce the time” on the hour. You can change the voice (I prefer the default) and even set it to announce every half or quarter hour.
Follow this guide to create an hourly reminder using the windows system. It’s for Windows 7, but you should be able to do it in Windows 8 as well.
Alternatively, there’s free software called TimeLeft that appears to be able to give you hourly reminders.
Or try out CookTimer, which has an “automatic restart” feature to continuously alert you every X minutes.
The hourly chime app does as it says: chimes every hour.
For iPhone and iPad
Aida Reminder Lite has an hourly reminder function. It can also alert you every half hour if you choose.
There are likely other programs and apps you could use to remind yourself to move. Try these as a starting point as they should work just fine.
Now that you’ve read this, you have no excuse not to do it today (or tomorrow if it’s bedtime). Adding this 10 second trick to your life has a far greater benefit than its cost of 10 seconds per hour. The risk is too great to decline this EASY addition to your life. And like the power of the mini habits concept, you might be surprised at what these little 10 second breaks can do for your energy levels and your life.
Update: A reader contacted me and had good things to say about the Varidesk as a stand-up desk solution ($275-350). If you’re interested in getting a stand-up desk, which is likely the best long-term solution for sitting less, I would look into this. I hope to get one before the end of this year, and I’ll be sure to review it if I do.