Cancer Covered Blog

Stand Up For Your Health

This is not just a “catchy” slogan but is actually a fact.

There is a growing body of evidence that has shown that sitting for long periods of time can be extremely bad for your health, almost as much as smoking. Periods of prolonged sitting is being studied by researchers to be linked to multiple health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Prolonged sitting increases inflammation, insulin resistance, and obesity.

How can this happen? Not only is sitting lousy at burning calories but it has been shown to suppress the production of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase which is essential for turning bad cholesterol into good. Sitting has also been linked to insulin resistance and, therefore, trouble metabolizing sugar.

Unfortunately, our work environment has significantly contributed to the time most people spend sitting each day. Most jobs have removed physical activity in our lives and most of us spend our time at work sitting at desks with very little movement throughout the day. Watching television at home and computers only add to the number of hours spent sitting.

One study of men in the Netherlands reported that occupational sitting for 6-8 hours per day increased the risk for colon cancer. Other studies found that women who sat for long periods were also at a higher risk for developing endometrial cancer than were those who did not, regardless of whether the women participated in moderate to vigorous physical activity. A U.S. study found that women who sat for 6 hours or more per day had a 28% higher risk for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma than did women who sat for less than 3 hours per day.

In fact, exercise alone does not overcome the increased risks of prolonged sitting. The American Cancer Society published a study in 2010 in which mortality rates during the 14 year follow-up period were lower for participants who exercised regularly than for those who did not. However, study participants who sat for 8 hours or more per day had higher mortality rates than those who sat for less than 3 hours per day. In other words, physical exercise seems to reduce but not eliminate the negative effects of sitting.

How can we change our habit of prolonged sitting? Very easily! We need to get in the habit of learning to stand at work and at home more and spend less time on our bottoms. We need to take breaks, even 1 to 2 minute breaks every hour can lead to improved health. Some people have carried this to extreme measures such as putting a treadmill at their desks and spend time walking instead of sitting. Learning to take the stairs and getting up to talk to co-workers instead of calling or e-mailing will get us moving more in the workplace. Try pacing when on the phone or schedule walking meetings are other suggestions.

Remember to be creative; get up and just don’t sit there. Stand up for your health.

Dr. Tony Jaslowski signature
Anthony Jaslowski, MD, FACP

Tony is very focused on patient understanding and has a wonderful ability to simplify even the most complex information.

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