VIDEO: Why sitting too much is bad for your health

We all know we need to be more active, but there is increasing evidence that we also need to spend less time sitting down.

To reduce our risk of ill health from inactivity, we are advised to exercise regularly at least 150 minutes a week and reduce sitting time. Studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and early death.

Why we should sit less

Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat. Think about how much time you spend each day sitting down. You may sit down throughout the entire working day at a desk in front of a computer. You sit during your commute to and from work. And you sit when you’re watching TV in the evening, or surfing the web.

ABC News reports that many of us spend up to 15 and a half hours sitting down every day. Furthermore, research suggests that even if you exercise regularly, this much sitting could have a major impact on your health.

In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak found that prolonged bouts of sitting are strongly associated with obesity, abnormal metabolism, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and an increased risk of early mortality. And these risks do not decrease, even if you exercise daily. Simply put, even if you get up and run for an hour each morning, and then you sit at a desk at work for the next 10 hours, and then sit in front of the TV for another 3 hours, you’re just as much at risk for developing these conditions as someone who didn’t exercise at all.

Another study, conducted by Dr. Rikke Krogh-Madsen with the Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism in Copenhagen, and quoted in Inc. Magazine, found that healthy individuals who were forced to reduce their daily steps from 6,000 to 10,000 steps down to just 2,000 steps had a 60% increase of insulin in their blood in just two weeks. Higher insulin in the blood leads to an increased risk of cancer and obesity. They also gained an average of 7% abdominal fat. Again, these changes occurred within two weeks of increased sitting. Our bodies simply aren’t designed to sit all day.

Why Sitting Is Harmful

Your body goes through certain physiological changes when it’s not being used. For instance, when the bigger muscles in the lower half of your body aren’t working, the inactivity sends a signal to your brain that changes your metabolism. These changes cause an increase in your blood sugar levels, and a 90% decrease in the amount of stored fat that’s used as fuel in your body. This, in turn,  has a number of ill effects, from obesity to an increased risk of cancer later in life.

Sitting also causes the electrical activity in your muscles to slow down: When seated, your body only burns one calorie per minute. This is merely one-third of what it burns when walking.

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