That’s right. Get up out of your chair—or off the couch if you’re potatoing—and get vertical. Why? Because your life, or at least your longevity, may depend on it.
That’s one of the latest depressing research findings. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Sitting down for more than three hours a day can shave a person's life expectancy by two years, even if he or she is physically active and refrains from dangerous habits like smoking.” Two years!
Watching TV too long makes the situation even worse: “... people who said they watched TV for more than four hours a day were 46 percent more likely to die of any cause than people who said they spent less than two hours a day watching TV.” And those who said they watched TV more than four hours a day were 80 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
According to researchers, the adverse effects of prolonged sitting are caused mainly by disrupted metabolic functions that lead to worse vascular health. This infographic makes the pitfalls of prolonged sitting all too clear.
If you work out regularly and think you’ll be spared, forget it, because it’s the time when you’re seated and not exercising that chops the years off your life. Still, not exercising makes the situation worse. WebMD cites the British Journal of Sports Medicine as warning that the health of people who spend lengthy periods glued to the TV or tied to a desk is especially at risk if they don’t exercise.
I’ve always like the concept of flow, pioneered by psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which refers to the state of mind where you get so absorbed in an activity that hours pass and you lose all sense of time. Sometimes, writing does that to me and it’s when I do my best writing. But it requires sitting, and sitting, it now appears, is bad.
These findings are ominous for people who do deskwork or sit at their computers for hours on end. Still, one solution is simple: Just get up periodically and walk around a little. Another solution, if feasible, is to use a standup desk. Or exercise and work simultaneously, such as with this treadmill-desk combo. Really! Can you imagine your company springing for a dozen of these for the team?
For now, I can’t help but wonder about the fine points. For example, how long do you have to remain standing before it’s not life-threatening to sit down again? If you do leg exercises while seated, will that let you off the hook? And, if you sit for two-and-a-half hours instead of three between stand-ups, will you be spared?
Hopefully, they’ll discover they misinterpreted the data and it’s actually sitting that’s good for us. Meanwhile, up I go!
Naomi Karten is a writer and speaker who draws from her background in both psychology and IT. Naomi's recent books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions and Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. Naomi is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com.