Warning: Sitting is the new smoking


It turns out your biggest health threat might be your desk – even if you exercise regularly. Studies show that sitting for over six hours can be detrimental to your health. This is especially frightening considering American sits on average nine hours a day.

“Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right. It seems highly likely that the longer you sit, the higher your risk. This phenomenon isn’t dependent on body weight or how much exercise people do,” according to Neville Owen, PhD, of Australia’s Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, who presented his latest research finding at the November American Institute for Cancer Research meeting in Washington, D.C.

An analysis of existing research suggests that 43,000 cases of colon cancer and almost 49,000 cases of breast cancer might be avoided by spending less time being sedentary. The problem, Owens said, lies in the physiological changes that occur to your metabolism when your body is sedentary.

Our bodies produce signals called biomarkers which are linked to cancer, and there is a strong relationship between these biomarkers and inactivity. In a study published in the European Heart Journal, Dr. Owen found that getting up and moving, even taking breaks as short as one minute, can lower these biomarkers. Exercise, it appears, can help lower levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation and possibly cancer risk.  

Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist, and leading researcher on the health hazards of sitting too much agrees. “The trick, the trick, the trick,” he said, is to have it firmly fixed in our minds, “that sitting is the new smoking. That sitting is literally bad for you.”

The American Institute for Cancer Research now recommends that adults who sit most of the day take one- or two-minute ”activity” breaks every hour. The good news is it’s not as hard to do as you might think. Here are some tips to help you keep moving throughout your day:

  • Set your watch or a timer near your desk to beep every hour to remind you to stand up and move.
  • Drink plenty of water. You will take more bathroom breaks, causing you to move more.
  • Instead of calling a coworker, walk to their area and have your conversation in person.
  • Place the word “move” near your computer as a reminder to get up.
  • Stand up while on the talking on the phone.
  • Have a “walk and talk” meeting with your co-workers or friends.
  • Purchase a pedometer and get the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

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