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Sitting for hours a day can cause severe damage to your health (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)
There are plenty of perks to working from home.
From the lack of a stressful commute to a steady supply of snacks, it makes sense that many of us are reluctant to return to the office.
But there’s one part of remote working that’s not so great.
What is sitting disease?
Sitting disease refers to the harm caused by spending a longer time than recommended sitting down and increased levels of inactivity.
It is estimated that sitting for prolonged periods of time is related to 70,000 deaths a year in the UK.
The term sitting disease was first analysed in the 1950s. Researchers found that bus drivers, who sat down for the majority of their shifts, were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than their bus conductor colleagues, who in contrast were actively circulating the bus multiple times a shift.
Human beings are designed to move, but increasing technological advances have created a number of problems we couldn’t possibly have predicted.
Inventions of objects like washing machines, cars and computers certainly impacted physical activity, but the sheer acceleration of developments in the last few decades has really added to the negative impacts of sitting down and leading more sedentary lifestyles.
For example, instead of seeing people in person, for either personal or business reasons, telecommunications means we rarely need to leave our homes.
Instead of going out to collect food, people are able to deliver directly to our door.
This has seen a not-so-subtle shift in people spending more time indoors, moving less and ultimately sitting more.
Most recently, a global pandemic has been added to the mix, forcing people to stay at home. This has made it even more important to understand what impact sitting may have on our lives and our futures.
Months of lockdown are likely to have upped the time we spend sitting each day (Picture: Getty Images)
What are the risks of sitting disease and its long-term effects?
Many will be surprised to learn that sitting has been directly linked to the development of a number of diseases, as well as being linked to premature death.
Sitting down for too long slows the metabolism and this can lead to obesity, raised sugar levels, increased blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Individually and collectively, these issues can contribute to heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. Having these diseases reduces your activity levels further and compounds your risk of developing additional illnesses.
How much more time have we spent sitting in lockdown?
Sitting at a desk at work or at home, driving to work, eating, or watching TV all contribute to hours spent sitting in a day. It is estimated that sitting for more than 6 hours a day has a significant negative impact on our health.
Research from the Health Survey for England in 2012 showed that 30% of adults spent 6 hours or more a day sitting during the week, and an even higher percentage (37%) on the weekends.
Pre-pandemic, on average, British people sat 8.9 hours a day. This last year, gyms and sports centres have been closed, we’ve been advised to travel less and to stay at home more – so there’d be no surprise in acknowledging that these numbers have likely sharply increased.
That same paper went on to conclude that the removal of sedentary lifestyle behaviours would be lead to the prevention of 7.5% cases of lung cancer, 9% of cases of colon cancer, 17% of cases of type 2 diabetes and about 5% cases of heart disease.
As well as easily calculating how many hours you spend sitting down a day, there are also related signs to watch out for: reduced energy, increased weight gain, poor sleep, poor concentration and memory, reduced productivity, lower mood and worse posture.
There are perks to working from home, but risks, too (Picture: Getty Images)
What are some practical things we can do to tackle sitting disease?
When thinking about what you can do to combat sitting disease, the important thing to know is that the effects are not irreversible.
The NHS recommend exercising for at least 150 minutes a week, which is equivalent to about 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Remember though, that exercising the recommended amount and still sitting for more than six hours a day, still puts you at risk of developing the associated diseases.
Therefore, it’s really important to strictly limit the amount of time you spend sitting a day.
In the midst of a global pandemic, this can simply be done by standing more:
- At home, or at work – stand when using your computer
- Stand whilst you are on the phone and taking calls
- Exercise while watching TV
- Invest in a standing desk to do your regular activities on
Further to this, it is strongly advised to take a one to two minute break from sitting every 30 minutes or so to correct your posture, improve your blood circulation and increase your metabolism. These will all contribute to a longer, healthier life.
To learn more about little actions you can do that make a big difference to your overall health and wellness, follow @lifeofdrkandi on Instagram.
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