We all know the dangers of smoking and the health consequences of second-hand smoke. But most of us do something that turns out to be far more hazardous to our health than smoking: We sit.
Researchers have found, and continue to find, evidence that prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing several serious illnesses including various types of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Sitting for extended periods of time affects blood sugar levels in the body. This makes sedentary people more likely to be obese and also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
And those aches and pains you’ve been attributing to aging? Muscles are healthiest when they are being used on a regular basis, so it’s not surprising that staying seated for eight or nine hours a day brings negative repercussions. Muscles are flexible, but when locked in sitting position for most of the day, they do get stiff. After years of constant sitting, the body becomes used to sitting and is not as proficient at running, jumping or even standing.
In a study on weight gain and loss, where patients were controlled for diet and exercise, researchers added 1,000 calories to all the subjects’ daily diets. None of the people were permitted to exercise as you would in a gym, but some people in the study were able to maintain their weight, while others gained weight. Those who avoided weight gain did so by unintentionally moving more throughout the day.
This is where NEAT comes in. NEAT is nonexercise activity thermogenesis, the energy expenditure of activity other than sports. It includes dancing, going to work, gardening and taking a walk. So, depending of your lifestyle and occupation, you might move more or less. A construction worker uses a lot more NEAT calories than a computer programmer in the course of a workday.
Sitting might even cancel out the benefits of your workout. According to researchers at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, each time-unit of sitting cancels out 8 percent of your gain from the same amount of running. In other words, if you run for an hour in the morning, and then sit for 10 hours during the day, you lose roughly 80 percent of the health benefit from your morning workout.
Another reason the smoking analogy is relevant is that studies have repeatedly shown the effects of long-term sitting are not reversible through exercise or other good habits. Sitting, like smoking, is very clearly bad for our health and the only way to minimize the risk is to limit the time we spend on our glutes each day. Any movement is good movement.