The human body is designed to move. Yet, many Americans spend at least half their waking time sitting — in cars, on sofas and in front of phones, TVs and computers. Sitting too much is now a recognized health hazard.
What’s too much? Sitting for 6 or more hours a day increases your risk of premature death by 19%, compared with people who sit fewer than 3 hours, according to research by the American Cancer Society last year. The 21-year study followed more than 127,000 people who had no major chronic diseases when they joined the group; during the study (1993-2014) nearly 49,000 died.
Those reporting the most leisure time sitting had higher risks of death from numerous medical conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes; kidney, lung, liver and digestive diseases; Parkinson’s disease; Alzheimer’s disease; nervous disorders; and musculoskeletal disorders.
The hunched position we assume while sitting at a desk or driving for long periods constricts the muscles, causing tension, fatigue and pain. To decrease the daily discomfort and long-term health risks of inactivity, loosen up: Take frequent, short movement breaks throughout your day.
Make a habit of standing up as often as possible — as you read, watch TV or talk or text on your phone, or to walk around. Learn to fit in simple core stretches at your desk. Here’s an example from ACE Fitness:
- Stand upright, fingers clasped behind your head; relax your neck.
- Turn your head toward your left elbow.
- Lean your upper body to the right; no bending forward or backward.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.