OC Sports & Rehab
floor-sitting

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About a third of a person’s life is spent sleeping. How much of the other two-thirds is spent off their feet? Even sitting isn’t fun, and its bad effects are sometimes compared to those of smoking. Sitting is not only not fun, but has been shown to make people die younger.

The question is how much (or how little) movement is needed to counteract the bad effects of sitting. Researchers have looked into how different amounts of sitting, how often you move, and how long you move affect your health. They are starting to get clear answers about how to move every day to make up for time spent sitting.

One study found that sitting for more than 30 minutes raises the risk of death, while any amount of exercise, whether light or intense, lowers that risk by at least 17 percent. This study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, looked at data from a previous survey about nearly 8,000 adults 45 years or older.

Researchers from New York, Michigan, Arizona, and Alabama looked at the differences between 30 minutes of light exercise (like walking at a normal pace) and 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise (e.g., jogging or running). They also looked at how the results changed when the total time spent sitting was broken up into several shorter sessions instead of one long one.

The results showed that the risk of dying went down when people moved for 30 minutes instead of sitting for 30 minutes. A half-hour of light exercise cut the risk by 17%, while a half-hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise cut the risk by 34%.

The risk goes down with how much you move, but even one minute of exercise cuts down on how much you sit.

WHAT MAKES IT A HACK

Muscles keep us moving, and they also help control how much sugar and fat are in the blood. If we don’t move around after eating, the blood sugar won’t be used by the muscles and will instead be stored. In the same way, muscles that don’t get regular exercise aren’t as good at getting rid of fat from the blood. Also, if you sit too much, your muscle mass and strength can go down.

When people sit for a long time, blood pools in their feet. Because of this, pressure builds up in the lower legs, which hurts the blood vessels and can cause permanent damage. This is also a problem with standing desks, which work the leg muscles but don’t improve blood flow like walking does.

Even if someone works out in the morning, sitting all day will still be bad for them. The key is to spend less time sitting. Even moving for one minute every half hour can help. These small movement breaks don’t have to be a full Zumba class; they could be a few minutes of cleaning or vacuuming. These exercise snacks help keep the muscles working well and the blood moving all over the body by keeping them active.

HOW IT CHANGES HOW LONG YOU LIVE

The key, say the two researchers, is to move more and spend less time sitting. Sitting too much is bad for the body right away and in the long run.

Sitting all day can also put pressure on the discs in your spine, which can speed up their degeneration and cause chronic back pain, which can make you feel bad and affect your health.

Getting up and moving around more and sitting less seems to be important.

In the end, any kind of regular movement during a day of sitting is good for your health. Even if you just stand up for a second or flex and point your feet, that’s a start.

Find out more about the importance of daily movement by contacting our Foothill Ranch Physical TherapyPlacentia Physical TherapyMission Viejo Physical Therapy, or Lake Forest Physical Therapy locations.