Forward by Dr. Haydene Lee: My son Benji Lee recently was given the option of writing an essay on a topic of his choice for an English assignment. I suggested he write about the dangers of sitting. I wanted to share it because I think people are not aware of the dangers of prolonged sitting. In addition to the negative effects he covers, sitting also contributes to lower back pain – a problem I treat every day. I hope this information motivates you to get moving to save your life. “Sitting is the New Smoking” is a new lunch and learn topic we are offering to companies. If you would like to schedule one of our doctors to present a free lunch and learn to your company please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can schedule it.
The Dangers of Sitting
By Benji Lee
The average Canadian spends 9.8 hours a day sitting. That means Canadians spend around half their day in a chair. This time is spent mostly through working, eating, watching television, screen time at home and driving. Although this may seem like a harmless and natural daily activity, it has a large variety of negative factors. Individuals should reduce the duration of time they spend sitting, as research has shown that it increases the possibility of developing diabetes, elevates the chance of suffering from cardiovascular diseases, and causes premature death.
Diabetes is a disease shared by 3 million Canadians, and some people can simply get it from sitting too long. A clinical researcher from the University of Leicester discovered that individuals who sat for longer periods of time have a 112% higher chance of developing diabetes, compared to those who sit minimally in a day (Middleton). When sitting for a prolonged period of time, the human body will begin to slow down its metabolism, leading to trouble breaking down energy such as sugar, which leads to diabetes. This unfortunate disease has recently become more common in children and young adults than in previous years. Due to technology, adolescents are spending more time online, which results in longer occasions spent sitting, rather than being active. An average high school student spends 6 hours seated in school, and will usually head home to spend another 2 hours sitting in front of a TV or computer. After that, they will spend about 3.5 hours sitting at a desk doing homework. Altogether, this leads to 11.5 hours spent sitting inactive, which is an extremely prolonged time spent sitting, and is a huge factor in the child obesity and diabetes seen today. Diabetes has a numerous causes, yet a simple solution includes activity and healthy eating.
While diabetes can be life hindering or even deadly, cardiovascular diseases are far worse. Sitting for more than 4 hours a day has been shown to increase the chances of heart disease by 147% (DiSalvo). The lack of movement and poor posture causes the heart to pump much slower, leading to blood collecting in the lower body, which can cause clots in the legs. These clots are not extremely hazardous on their own; however if the clot rises to the lungs or heart, it can cause pulmonary embolisms and heart attacks (Middleton). Unfortunately, exercising for an hour a day does not reverse the effects of sitting for a prolonged period of time. The only solution is to spend more time moving and less time on the couch. Getting up and walking around for about 3 minutes every half hour hour is an effective and simple solution to this problem. Other ideas include placing a treadmill in front of the desk to walk and work. This not only protects from the cardiovascular diseases that can come from sitting, but will improve an individuals cardio overall. Standing up to work or replacing your chair with an exercise ball are other solutions.
Surprisingly, sitting in itself can be a cause of death, even if it does not lead to diabetes or heart failure. An article published by Forbes magazine stated that every hour spent sitting in front of a television after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. This is the same rate as smoking one cigarette (Pikul). Based on the amount of time spent sitting daily, this means Canadians are losing about 3.6 hours off their life every day. The Los Angeles recently published an article stating that sedentary behaviour has risen above obesity in mortality rate. In fact a sedentary lifestyle had double the risk of death than being obese (Walton).
Far too many people spend most of their lives sitting. Far too many people are too lazy to get up. Far too many people are sick and dying from something so easily avoided, and this has to be changed. In today’s society people seem to be held hostage by technology and would rather spend hours sitting in front of a screen than spending a few minutes on their feet, whatever the activity may be. The risks of diabetes, heart complications, and the possibility of a shorter lifespan, should be more than enough motivation for people to make simple changes to prolong to their lives and improve their health. Actions as simple as walking or biking instead of driving could change an individual’s future for the better. By spending less time sitting, people can be healthier, and happier, and all by simply getting up to take a stroll for a few minutes.