Guy SittingHere’s a question to ponder…

Heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes are cited as the world’s leading causes of death – in that order (CDC, 2007). All of those diseases can be linked to sedentary behavior. So, is the real culprit and leading cause of death too much sitting?

Perhaps not officially identified as such (yet) by statistics and epidemiology, but I wonder – is it just a matter of time before the list changes to: sitting is the leading cause of death by its facilitation of the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes?

Check out this TED Talk on the subject. Quite interesting and the speaker is funny (always a bonus in my book).

Too much sitting (as revealed by previous research and literature) contributes to decreased mental health, increased risk of chronic disease and a greater risk of developing disabilities later on in life (Sitting Too Much May Harm Health -WebMD). Caveat – this same research has revealed that even if someone engages in daily physical activity, sitting the majority of the day is still problematic. In other words, a quality workout could be undone by too much sedentary behavior. This is what we refer to as “actively sedentary”.

Too much sitting “has been linked to cardiovascular events like heart attack, heart disease, overall death and death from cancer” (Dr. LaCroix, Director of Women’s Health Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego). Yikes. Not good, but good that research is starting to make some connections. Science has not quite figured out what the specific cause-effect relationship is – researchers emphasize the word link versus proven. Research has linked too much sitting to these conditions/diseases. Science has a long road to go before anything is conclusive. Some postulate (based on their findings) the following to potentially explain the dangers of too much sitting:

  • Sitting causes muscles to burn less fat and blood flow to slow.
  • Sitting may increase appetite causing us to consume more.
  • We often use poor posture when we sit, which does not do our core muscles any favors.
  • Metabolic processes tend to lag when seated.

So what does this mean for your health and your family’s health? Simply this – be more movement conscious and intentional. I’m guilty of neglecting to take a break from my desk every now and then – especially if I have a deadline looming or a big project that needs my full attention. Here are some tricks and tips to get you (and me) up and moving.

  • Invest in a standing workstation. They are phenomenal. I can say this because I have one at work and I truly love it. When I’m in my office, I sit for an hour and stand for an hour. On my standing breaks, I also take a quick walk around the building in an attempt to take at least 250 steps during that hour. If a standing desk is cost prohibitive – improvise with a tall pub-style table or high counter.
  • Use your phone or a kitchen timer to set reminders to get up, stand, and move.
  • Host or suggest walking meetings or, if you are running the meeting, set aside 5 minutes at the beginning for “walking and talking” as a warm-up to the discussion.
  • Take standing breaks during meetings.
  • Use a ball chair for an office chair (a stability ball works fine and is more affordable).
  • Look for ways to break up your sit-stand time throughout the day – even during off hours at home. Get up during commercials – do jumping jacks or burpees or march/jog in place. Be creative!!

As I ponder the statistics the available body of literature has published, there is one common problem and we are sitting on it. Let’s all make a commitment to be movement conscious throughout the day. Our bodies were made for movement – sitting is not a way of life. Get movin’!

Until next time…Meet you and the Well.

Erin Nitschke

Passionate wife, mother, college educator, writer, blogger, and health and fitness professional.


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