Optimum Health - Rule Number 2
2. Stand up, Sit less and move more
The second core pillar of health is movement and exercise, and yes, there’s a difference.
On average, we now spend between 10-12 hours a day sitting down. Between sitting at a work desk, sitting behind a wheel, and sitting in front of a screen, we spend WAY too much of our time sitting down, and it’s impacting our health. Studies show that there is a strong correlation between sitting and elevated risk of illness and injury. Health concerns such as obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat and cholesterol have been linked to prolonged sitting. It also seems to increase your risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Shocker.
It makes sense when you think about it. The human body was made to move, we evolved to be a body in motion. For tens of thousands of years, early homo sapiens were hunters and gatherers who were constantly on the go in search of food. And even as early as 100 years ago, we were a much more active species, but the advent of technology changed everything. The efficiencies brought to us by technology did more of our work, and we slowly became more sedentary.
How bad is it for you?
An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat more than eight hours a day with a sedentary lifestyle had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking. Here’s the kicker, even the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity a week isn’t enough to counteract the effects of too much sitting. So what can you do? It’s quite simple - stand up, sit less and move more.
Low-intensity activities like standing and walking are much more important than you may realize. Low-level activities, what you wouldn’t even consider exercise, play a crucial metabolic role and account for more of our daily energy expenditure than moderate-to-high intensity activities. You may spend four or five hours at the gym a week, but you spend many times more hours standing, walking and moving. Standing and moving engage more muscles than sitting, use more energy, and contribute to many health benefits. You can improve your overall health, mental health, and physical health.
Potential benefits of moving, standing, and sitting less:
Stronger bones - Standing and weight-bearing exercises promote strong healthy bones. Much like muscles, bones require regular use and movement to maintain their strength. Sitting, on the other hand, can contribute to losses in bone density over time.
Firmer muscles - Sitting for extensive periods causes muscles to weaken and go dormant, joints to stiffen and makes you prone to injury and chronic pain. Standing recruits large muscles and engages them, leading to a stronger core, more stable hips crucial for balance, and helps to loosen stiff joints that affect posture.
Improved posture - Spinal issues arise from slouching and craning your head in a seated position. It strains your ligaments and compresses your spine. Standing with proper posture restores the natural curvature of your spine and helps prevent spinal complications.
Pain relief - Our bodies were made to move and stand. Sitting is physically stressful and may contribute to herniated disks, pain, degeneration of joints and nerve damage. When you sit less, you decrease your likelihood of back pain, upper and lower, and may even go pain-free.
Increases blood circulation - Sitting can obstruct good blood flow, which is vital for proper health. Prolonged sitting increases your likelihood of clots and varicose veins.
Burn Calories - Standing requires 30% more calories than sitting, about 50 total calories per hour. Over time, that adds up and can aid in weight loss.
Boost your metabolism - Standing and moving activates the enzymes your body needs to break down fat while sitting for four hours inhibits your metabolism of fat by up to 90%. Moving promotes higher HDL and lower LDL cholesterol levels and helps improve heart health.
Improved brain function - Standing and moving brings more oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which is linked to better concentration, greater productivity, enhanced learning, memory and retrieval, and helps create new brain cells in areas involved with critical thinking.
More energy - standing and moving enhances energy and alertness when done regularly.
Boosts Mood - The fresh blood and oxygen into the brain release mood-boosting chemicals which help to improves morale, enthusiasm, and motivation.
Reduces the risk of disease - Reducing sedentary time decreases your chances of developing diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and early mortality through several factors described above.
The moral of the story is that you have to sit less, stand up and move more. If you can, alternate between standing and sitting every 30 minutes. Otherwise, set an hourly alarm that reminds you to stand up and move around. It’s amazing how something so simple can benefit our health in such profound ways. For even more optimal health, incorporate an exercise routine into your daily life. I suggest metabolic training or high-intensity intervals. Don’t know what that is? Don’t worry, I’m covering those in another blog post soon. In the meantime, stand more and stay tuned for the final part of the optimal health series.