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Sharp Health News

Prolonged sitting: a life or death situation?

Oct. 6, 2015

Get up from your desk

What are you doing right now? Chances are you’re sitting. You might think about getting up soon, because prolonged sitting can lead to serious health risks — even death.

According to a study published in January 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, if you sit for long periods of time, you are at greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. In fact, too much sitting could lead to early death, even for those who regularly exercise.

“I’m not terribly surprised by the results of the study,” says Lisa Prieto, a physical therapist at Sharp Memorial Hospital. “I think we all know the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle. However, a lot of people will be surprised to learn that someone who exercises on a regular basis is still considered to have a sedentary lifestyle if they spend too much time sitting when not exercising.”

Take a break … from sitting

While no one is saying you should avoid sitting completely, it is important to take breaks every 30 minutes. Prieto says that there are a variety of ways to cut back on your time spent being sedentary.

If you work at a desk, set a timer to remind you to take a break to stretch and move.

  • Make a trip to the water cooler or visit a co-worker down the hall. Even better? Visit a co-worker on another floor and take the stairs.
  • Stand when you talk on the phone or when someone visits your workspace.
  • Hold small meetings on the go as you get fresh air and take a stroll.
  • Don’t eat lunch at your desk. Vary where you eat and try to get in a short walk on your lunch break.
  • Consider using a standing desk or a convertible desk that allows you to sit and stand intermittently throughout the day.

What if your job requires lots of driving, or you're a parent shuttling kids to a variety of activities?

  • Keep a pair of fitness shoes in your car and take a minute at each stop to stretch (use your car for balance) and take a quick walk.
  • Park your car in the spot farthest from each destination.
  • When watching a sports practice at a field, take a few laps instead of heading to the bleachers.
  • Sneak in your own workout during your child’s swim, karate or dance class.

Are watching TV, scanning social media or reading some of your favorite hobbies?

  • Consider doing yoga while you watch TV for a relaxing — but not sedentary — break.
  • Watch TV, go online or read from a treadmill or stationary bike. You’re less likely to snack and you can get in your daily 30 minutes of exercise while being entertained.
  • Place your book, tablet or magazine on a high bookcase or dresser and stand to read for a bit.

The best solution to avoiding the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle is to incorporate active movement throughout the day, regardless of the activities your schedule holds. So, go on — get up and get moving!

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