Many people nowadays do their jobs sitting down. In fact, more than at any other time in the past, we are finding ourselves in the sitting position for longer periods of time. It’s a well-known fact that excessive sitting is associated with a greater risk of obesity, but do you know that it has also been linked to a higher incidence of heart disease, as well? Researchers have found that people who sit for extended periods of time during the day - even those who exercise regularly - have higher levels of bad cholesterol, larger waist circumferences, higher triglyceride levels, and more over-all inflammation than their counterparts who took regular standing or walking breaks throughout the workday.
Experts now believe that when people sit for too long, detrimental changes take place in the enzymes that are responsible for the metabolism of fat. Studies are focusing on one in particular, called lipoprotein lipase.
Exercise May Not Help
Most people think that engaging in an exercise regimen helps safeguard them from problems associated with heart disease and it does, to an extent. Research, however, confirms that one of the major factors shown to exponentially increase the risk of having a heart attack is the extended periods of time that people spend sitting down. Since our bodies are designed to move and be active, sitting for long periods of time goes against the natural grain of a healthy lifestyle, even when we exercise regularly.
What Does Help?
Because sitting for a long time has been shown to be an independent factor that affects heart health, there are a number of things that desk-bound workers and others that are required to be sedentary for long periods of time are encouraged to do:
· First and foremost, get up and walk around at least two times every hour. Some suggestions include taking phone calls standing up, walking to the printer to retrieve documents or delivering a message down the hall in person instead of e-mailing.
· Sit on an exercise ball. This may be impractical for full-time implementation, but it would be very beneficial to practice for a few minutes several times a day.
· If you must sit in a chair, invest in an inexpensive portable pedal exerciser or portable stair stepper. Readily available at most large retail stores, this small-scale exercise equipment can be easily placed under a desk and is a great way to increase circulation and incorporate lower body movement. In addition, the pedal exerciser can be used on top of the desk to exercise the arms.
· Two products that are becoming more popular are the stand-up desk and the treadmill desk. Standing at a stand-up desk will burn twice the calories that sitting burns and walking at a slow pace at a treadmill desk will burn, on average, an extra 100 calories an hour. Additionally, being in an upright position increases blood flow and brain activity. Although, you may have to buy them yourself, these are healthy alternatives to traditional desks.
There have been numerous studies over the past several decades confirming the fact that sitting for too long has adverse effects on our health. Prolonged periods of being in a seated position have been shown to increase the risk factors for heart disease, obesity and diabetes. If you have a desk job that requires you to sit in front of a computer all day, take some extra precautions by making sure that you are taking at least two standing or walking breaks every hour. Better yet, do some of your work in an upright standing position if you can. Your health will thank you.