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For a while now, scientists have been studying the effects excessive sitting has on our physical health.
Their studies indicate that metabolic and cardiovascular functions are compromised by spending several hours per day atop a chair.
Researchers in Australia decided to study the effects of excessive sitting on psychological well being and found that it, too, is negatively affected by long hours spent on our derriere.
Unfortunately, 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise does not erase the body damage acquired by prolonged sitting. To prevent ourselves from “rusting” as we sit, intermittent movement is recommended.
The Australian research study looked at the habits of almost 9,000 women, ages 50 to 55, over a several year period. Investigators were interested in how a lack of exercise effected the incidence of depression.
The study revealed women who spend over seven hours sitting every day have a 47 percent greater risk of depression than those sitting four hours or fewer. Those who did not engage in any type of physical activity had a 99 percent greater risk of becoming depressed than the ladies who exercised.
Another Australian study involved 3,000 government workers. Those workers who sat for more than six hours each workday were more likely to indicate higher psychological distress than the workers sitting fewer than three hours per day—despite the workers’ activity levels when off the job.
Some of the psychological effects of sitting at work may be related to interacting with a computer screen for hours instead of with people. At home, individuals may stare at a TV, video game, or spend hours on the Internet without stretching their intellect, creativity, or exercising complex face to face social skills.
The physical problem with prolonged sitting is that our many of our large lower body muscles are not contracting. When not contracting they require little of our body’s glucose for fuel, so excess glucose builds up and gets carried along in our blood stream. This can lead to weight gain, illnesses such as diabetes, or heart disease, and affect the efficiency of our brain.
We know from space exploration that the body deteriorates more quickly in anti-gravity environments, and sitting for long periods simulates a low-gravity situation. The way to prevent low-gravity effects is to periodically increase the force of gravity on the body by disengaging from our chair.
From a seated position, you can engage the force of gravity simply by standing up, then sitting down again. Doing this every 15 minutes will help counteract the effects of extended sitting. However, it is recommended that we do some simple exercises or stretches after standing up—at least once every hour.
If you are at a computer much of the time, you might set a timer that reminds you to stand up every 15 or 20 minutes. If you are watching TV, you might stand up at the start of each commercial break—and at least once per hour walk in place during the duration of the commercials.
There are countless ways to intermittently engage gravity. Let creativity be your guide.
Photo credit: Logan Ingalls
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