The Dangers of Sitting.

There’s a new epidemic out there and if you’re reading this article at your desk or on your iPad, there’s a good chance you may be suffering from it.

What are we talking about? Some scientists have dubbed it “sitting disease”, which refers to the negative effects of living a sedentary life.

Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic and author of Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You And What You Can Do About It, explains, “Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression, and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease.”

The shocking fact is that most people who work in an office are sitting for more than seven hours a day. This isn’t surprising when you factor in the time we spend commuting, sitting at our desks and watching TV, and the fact that our lives are largely lived in front of a screen as we bank, shop, and keep in touch with friends.

Studies have shown that as we become more and more sedentary, our chances of becoming obese, developing type 2 diabetes or suffering from heart disease increase significantly. One particular study found that our risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases by seven percent for every two hours we are chair bound.

The concerning news is that even exercise isn’t enough to save us. According to a Canadian study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, our increasingly sedentary lives could be shortening our years on earth — and it doesn’t matter if you exercise as much as an hour a day.

So, if exercise isn’t enough to save us, what can we do to counteract the negative effects of “sitting disease”? Here are a few ideas:

• Get up every 30 minutes and get moving for one to three minutes.
• Catching up on emails or making calls? Do it standing up.
• Schedule walking meetings. Steve Jobs was a huge fan of them, as were Aristotle, Freud, Harry S. Truman and Charles Dickens.
• Consider using a stability ball to make sure that your muscles are activated while you’re sitting.
• Cut down your time in front of the television, or drag your treadmill or exercise bike in front of it and keep moving while you catch up on your favourite series.
• Use a pedometer to track the number of steps you take each day, and then keep increasing them.

Before you ditch your ergonomic chair in favour of a standing desk though, a new study has shown that sitting may not be the primary culprit. Dr Melvyn Hillsdon, the author of a 16-year study on the subject, says, “Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself. Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.”

What this means is that whether you sit or stand at your job, it’s important to not stay in one position for too long throughout the day. Adopting this new non-sedentary way of working means you could save yourself some major health problems in future.

Fedhealth Medical Aid believes in living a happy holistic life, and we take your health seriously. To find out more about our offerings for consumers and corporates, as well as our unique benefits, get in touch with our team.