Attention Writers: The Health Risks of Prolonged Sitting

November 14, 2014

As any busy writer knows, hours upon hours can just whip by with you seated in the exact same position. And while this routine may be perfect for getting work done, it’s terrible for your overall health. In fact, recent studies are showing just how dangerous prolonged sitting really is.

Serious Health Risks

This is going to sound crazy, but prolonged sitting has been linked to some very serious health problems. It’s just common sense that weight gain, obesity and muscular atrophy are results of sitting all day, but it gets worse.

Here’s a list that was posted on the WebMD website:

  • Increased risk of death from cardiac arrest.

  • Increased risk of death from heart disease.

  • Increased risk of cancer.

  • Worsened mental health.

  • Higher risk of disability.

Say what? All this just from sitting?

According to Andrea LaCroix, PhD in a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, people who sit for more than 11 hours each day are at the highest risk.

In a separate study comparing adults who spent less than two hours per day seated in front of a screen time with those spending more than four hours a day seated, the results were pretty alarming. Those with the most seated screen time had:

  • 50% higher risk of death from any cause.

  • Approximately 125% higher risk of chest pain or heart attack.

According to the study, these higher risks weren’t associated with common cardiovascular disease risk factors like smoking or high blood pressure.

Why Is Sitting So Bad?

And why is sitting for long periods so bad? There aren’t many concrete theories when it comes to the “why” of prolonged sitting dangers.

One potential reason is that sitting for long periods causes your blood flow to become sluggish and your

muscles to burn less fat. If you’re a busy writer you can probably attest to that. However, more detailed explanations haven’t been discovered, or revealed if you’re into conspiracy theories!

What About Daily Exercise?

So, you’re a busy writer or web designer or computer programmer and you sit for long periods of time each day. A daily trip to the gym and a good workout will counteract all the negative effects, right?

Unfortunately, working out doesn’t seem to lessen the risk. That’s not to say that exercise is bad, but it doesn’t seem to counteract the negative aspects of prolonged sitting.

One theory for this is that sitting and exercise are two separate factors that affect health just like exercise and sleep are separate. If you have a bad sleep, exercise won’t compensate for that, or counteract the negative effects.

What’s the Solution?

Whether that theory makes sense to you or not, the evidence is growing and if you sit a lot you should start taking action to stay healthy. 

The solution seems to be breaking up your sitting time with frequent “movement breaks” throughout the day. As difficult as it is to get up once you’re in the writing groove, you should get out of your chair every 30 minutes or so.

To accomplish this, you may want to set a timer until it becomes a habit. You can try using a standing desk, do some jumping jacks, light stretching, invest in a small rebounder for your home office, or just stand up and walk around a little.

The main point is to stand up and try to do it consistently. It is annoying and it is disruptive, but in light of this research, it’s better to be safe than sorry, don’t you think?

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