Being sat down for too long each day could prove fatal
10th April 2014
Are you sat down reading this? The chances are likely you probably are. However, you may not be sat comfortably for long. According to research, those who are sat down for extended periods of the day are putting themselves at serious risk of a whole host of health problems. This risk is something that applies to nearly all of us with the average Brit spending 8.9 hours per day sat down; either at home in front of the television, at work, or in their car. Factor in around seven hours of sleep per day and this equates to just a third of our time spent on our feet. Those spending large amounts of time on their backside are probably more at risk of obesity than others who are active as very little energy will be expended to burn off calories, but the sedentary amongst us are also putting themselves in danger of developing a multitude of other problems. For example, sat down for many hours each day may actually cause problems such as diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, deep vein thrombosis, brittles bones, depression, dementia and muscular and back problems. The dangers are serious enough for health experts to brand sitting down for too long as ‘the new smoking’, a time bomb just waiting to explode. In fact, it is so worrying that The World Health Organisation have highlighted physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, even ahead of obesity. Back, neck and muscular conditions linked to a lack of activity are said to cost the UK economy over a staggering £1billion each year from sick days, and is predicted to rise. This has led to the creation of a new campaign called Get Britain Standing, aiming to get Brits off their chairs, back on their feet moving about, and reduce the number of ailments that are associated from spending too much time sitting down. Gavin Bradley, director of Get Britain Standing, says: “It’s like smoking during the 1970s and passive smoking during the 90s. We all know a sedentary lifestyle is bad for us, we just don’t realise how bad it is. Spending less time sitting down really can add years to your life. That is the most important message. Unfortunately, it also seems to be the hardest one for people to believe.” The World Health Organisation say a healthy adult should be at least in engaging in 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, or 30 minutes on at least five days of the week. This will suffice to receive benefits of regular exercise, but will still not be enough to prevent you from the risks of a sedentary lifestyle if you spend the rest of the time being sat down. Dr John Buckley, an expert in exercise science at Chester University, says: “A person may have got more than 30 minutes’ exercise by cycling to work and home again, but if they have been sitting still all day they will lose some of those benefits. It is like exercising but then eating an unhealthy diet or exercising and being a smoker. Physical inactivity is equally as important as those other well-known issues like diet and smoking.” The body’s metabolism is slowed down when we are sat for extended periods and this hampers how enzyme lipoprotein lipase breaks down the body’s fat reserves. In addition, blood glucose levels and blood pressure both increase. Activity such as even just standing and moving around throughout the day should be enough to reverse this increase. It is believed that 30 minutes of light activity in two or three-minute bursts may be just as beneficial to us a half-hour block of exercise. Unfortunately, failure to keep active will cause blood sugar levels and blood pressure to raise and cause damage to the inside of the arteries. This in turn increases the chance of developing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Dr Buckley says encouraging people to be active and spend less time sat down is the biggest thing that could be done to reduce the risk of such diseases. “The human race didn’t evolve to spend so much time sitting down,” he says. “Up until relatively recently we spent much of our time moving around.”