Hi, my name is Jen Bruning and I am a Registered Dietitian with Guckenheimer. Welcome to Food Myths Exposed where Guckenheimer’s dietitians deconstruct facts and debunk myths surrounding food, nutrition and health.
You've probably heard it said by well-meaning coworkers, or read it in articles: Sitting is the new smoking. But how true is this, and what's really meant by it? Let's sit down and discuss…better yet, let's walk & talk.
When people smoke, they are polluting their lungs with toxins and feeding an addiction to nicotine. Sitting does not do this. But there are overlaps in the health risks of smoking and sitting too much.
This mainly has to do with circulation and the risk of heart disease. Smoking increases your risk of having a serious cardiovascular event. And so does sitting. While having a low-movement day from time to time may be ok, having many days where you're sitting a lot can add up over time.
Historically, humans have had to move around a LOT more in order to survive. These days, many of our jobs and activities involve way more sitting, in fact, the average American spends between 8 and 10 hours per day sitting down.
But so, what- people have always sat down. Why is it so bad?
Number 1: Cardiovascular health- it's not just NOT exercising, but sedentary time itself that can wreak havoc on our heart health. Just like any other muscle, the heart needs activity to stay strong and protect us.
Number 2: Risk of death. One meta-analysis showed a 34% higher mortality risk for adults who sit for 10 hours per day. Another large study suggests that 7% of all deaths in people 45 years and older can be attributed to high sitting time.
If this sounds a little scary to you, worry not, because even if you have a sedentary job, you can work towards less sitting time in your day.
The key is to work more movement into your whole day, a little at a time. Let's start at the beginning:
If you drive to work, park at the back of the lot. If you take public transit, get off the bus or subway 1 stop earlier and walk the rest of the way. Is biking to work an option? Many cities are designating bike lanes to encourage more cycling commuters. Some cities even have bikes that can be rented for short periods of time.
Once you're in the office, there are more things you can do to get movement into your day. There are the classics: take the stairs, walk the halls, use the fitness room during breaks or after hours. But what about a walking meeting or conference call? Creativity is stimulated with movement, so make your next small group ideation session a walking one!
If you need to sit for a meeting, choose a location that all parties can walk to, such as the cafe or coffee shop. Does your company have a meditation or yoga room? A quick 5-10 minute stretching session can loosen you up and help you de-stress. And if you need to tell your coworker something quickly, skip the email and walk to their desk. The walk and the face time with a colleague will help energize your day. And if you REALLY mean business, research using a sit-to-stand adjustable desk, or under-desk pedaler for movement in place.
No matter what you do, try to move every 30-60 minutes throughout your day. You'll not only help your heart, but lower your stress and boost your creativity.
So, is sitting really the new smoking? Not precisely, but too much sitting over time does come with its own risks. For your health, happiness, and productivity, ease up on sitting as much as possible throughout your day.
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