For better or worse, technology has bound us to our desks, making sitting on our bums for 8 hours a day the norm. Unsurprisingly, there are consequences for a sedentary lifestyle, the worst of which are related to our health. Sitting is terrible for you, and everyone knows it.
You wouldn’t be blamed for taking the weekend warrior theory of exercising and trying to be as active as possible during off-work hours. Maybe you walk a few blocks more than you need to, or you try to do work during lunch by standing at a counter instead. But science is here to tell you that’s not gonna cut it.
According to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Columbia University Medical Center’s Keith Diaz, if you’re a perpetual sitter, walking around during off-work hours doesn’t really erase the fact that you were sitting on your ass all day long. In fact, for many office workers, there’s such a huge gap of time between moving and not moving that exercise doesn’t have much of an effect on your body.
In the study, Diaz monitored almost 8,000 African-American and Caucasian participants over the age of 45. On average, the participants were sedentary for more than 12 hours of a 16-hour day stretch (when you’re awake), usually sitting around for about 11 and a half minutes at a stretch.
Diaz and his team monitored the group for a week, then followed up with them four years later. Four percent — 340 of the participants — had died in that time. There was a surprisingly strong correlation between the amount of time spent sitting and the rate of early death among the participants. Diaz found that while participants who moved around within a half hour of their last movement had the lowest risk of death, but if they spent 30 minutes sedentary after that, participants had an increased 19 percent mortality rate.
Now, the researchers were quick to point out that correlation doesn’t mean causation; additionally, because the sample skewed older, many of the participants were already predisposed to cardiovascular issues. But the implications of the study are clear: over the next few decades, if you spend more time sitting than not, it could have extremely deleterious health effects.
The core problem, as Gizmodo’s George Dvorsky points out, is that so much of our modern lives necessitate sitting, even outside of the office. Commuting means you’re either standing or sitting still for a chunk of time, and once you get out of work, you could be ordering Subway, plunking down on a couch to binge watch TV, and scrolling through Twitter. Before you know it, it’s time for bed. It’s very possible to go an entire day with just a few hundred steps.
So to avoid spending the entire day on your butt, try to set an alarm or reminder every 30 minutes to get up and move around. That might not necessarily solve the problem entirely, but it’ll help you clock in some steps, get some much-needed time away from the screen, and keep your butt away from your toxic relationship with a chair.
By Tanya Basu