Up to your ears in news that sitting is killing you? Sorry, new research has raised more concerns about the dangers of sitting, and doctors now warn that spending hours hunched over a desk could actually be taking years off of your life and even regular exercise won’t offset the risk. Bad news for most of us, since research shows that Americans spend about 55% of their waking hours in a sedentary or inactive position.
But just as office workers have begun to embrace standing desks in the pursuit of health, researchers are now suggesting that too much standing may also be dangerous. For greater insight into this differing advice, The Broadcast called Dr. Kurtis Kim, who treats patients for vein diseases that frequently come from too much standing or sitting. Here’s what you need to know:
Try not to sit for too long without moving
People who spend too much time sitting have been shown to have a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, and vein disease, and also generally have shorter life spans. In addition, during long periods of sitting still muscles are less engaged, blood is stagnant, and the metabolism slows. Sedentary behavior has also been shown to result in a greater percentage of fat deposits around vital organs, and can put greater pressure on your veins. “While arteries have a heart that functions as a pump to distribute nutrient-full blood to rest of the body, veins that collect these used blood [cells] to return to the heart do not have equivalent pump,” Dr. Collins says. “Sitting creates a problem where one’s muscles are not being used to push the blood up toward the heart, and this can, over time, stagnate venous return creating what is called venous insufficiency,” he adds.
Try not to stand for too long either
Too much standing has also been shown to lead to leg pain, back pain, complications during pregnancy, and cardiovascular problems. “Prolonged sitting jobs and prolonged standing jobs, in one place, are the big patient populations that I have,” Dr. Collins says. “That includes . . . judges and lawyers, to doctors and surgeons and nurses, to grocery clerks and cashiers and cooks.”
Instead, do a little bit of both
Researchers suggest individuals who spend most of their time sitting should gradually increase the time they spend standing to avoid the risk of leg and back pain. But the overall goal is to increase the amount of physical exercise by reducing the time people spend in sedentary positions. Dr. Collins encourages people to move around frequently throughout the day, approximately every 30 minutes. “The idea is to try to break up your day as much as you can,” Dr. Collins says. “That means physically going up and down the stairs or physically taking a walk around the office.”