September 12, 2012 at 5:07 pm , by Amelia Harnish
If you sit all day long, you’re putting your health at risk—even if you exercise later, according to a growing pile of studies.
I’ll be the first to admit that when this started popping up again and again in the news recently, I ignored it every time. What am I supposed to do? Quit my job? I have to be at my desk! That’s why it was so refreshing to meet Anup Kanodia, M.D., assistant professor of Clinical Family Medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. He gave me a much-needed crash course in why sitting is so bad and what you can do about it right now. (That’s me, right, after Dr. Kanodia revamped my cube so I could see how it felt to work standing up.)
LHJ: What goes wrong when we sit?
AK: The problem is that without even realizing it, we’re sitting way more than we should. Our bodies are built to sit around three hours a day. The average person now sits eight, maybe even 12 hours a day. There are a few reasons this is bad for you.
First, you’re burning fewer calories. When you sit you burn 100 calories an hour. When you stand, you burn on average 150 calories an hour simply because the muscles in your legs and core have to work to keep you upright. So when you’re sitting all the time, managing your weight is harder, especially if you have trouble finding time to exercise. But the studies also show that independent of exercise, sitting is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. So in other words, a half hour or an hour of exercise at the end of the day doesn’t make up for the damage done earlier in the day.
LHJ: Yikes! A lot of us spend so much of the workday with our butts in a chair. Where does standing start to makes a difference?
AK: It sounds too good to be true, but really every second of standing can make a difference. If you can get out of your chair every half an hour for a minute, you can burn 43 percent more energy throughout your day. And the reason this is so important is because of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which among other things, is responsible for converting your “bad” LDL cholesterol to “good” HDL cholesterol. After one hour of sitting, the production of this enzyme goes down 95 percent. But just getting out of your chair and moving a bit restarts it.
LHJ: Wow, that actually sounds doable.
AK: Yes, it adds up to only about 15 minutes a day. But it’s not the time that matters, it’s kick-starting that enzyme throughout the day. You can burn off a Starbucks latte, just by standing for 30 minutes. Now think of what you could do by standing for an hour or more a day!
Easy Ways To Get Off Your Butt
- In the mornings, park in the far lot to sneak in more walking.
- Set the timer on your phone to remind you to get up every half hour.
- Stand during every phone call.
- Drink more water. You’ll have to get up to pee eventually, right?
- Suggest standing or walking meetings.
- Get up while you read the paper or a long report.