It’s becoming increasingly clear that staying active-and by active I mean engaging in virtually any physical movement-as much as possible throughout the day is critical for health and longevity. It even appears to be more important, in the big scheme of things, than a regularly scheduled fitness routine.
No exaggeration: SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING
Why is sitting so unhealthy?
Your body was designed to be active and on the move all day long. When you stop moving for extended periods of time, it’s like telling your body to shut down and prepare for death. While we clearly need to rest from time to time, that rest is supposed to break up activity – not the other way around! Sitting is simply not supposed to be a way of life.
The harmful effects of sitting occur at the molecular level. When you’re seated, your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and toxicity levels all rise, and the cellular mechanisms involved in the maintenance of your body and health shut down.
As soon as you sit down, your metabolic rate begins to slow to the point that you only burn one calorie per minute. After three hours of sitting, your rate of arterial dilation – or the ability of your arteries to expand and allow more blood to flow through them-is reduced by 50%, with a corresponding decrease in blood flow.
After two weeks of sitting only six hours a day or more, your LDL (known as “bad” cholesterol) and other fatty molecules rise. At the same time, your fat-burning enzymes become reduced, making you prone to weight gain.
After a year of spending the majority of your waking hours seated, your muscles deteriorate, as do your bones-if you continue to be sedentary, you will lose bone mass at a rate of 1% per year.Your brain also suffers: When you don’t move for extended periods of time, your brain function slows. But, getting your limbs moving increases blood flow and oxygenation throughout the body, including the brain. Movement also triggers the release of mood-enhancing hormones, which you miss out on if you spend numerous hours a day sitting in one position.
GOOD NEWS: All you have to do is GET UP!
The major piece of good news here is that all you need to do to stem this tide of negative effects is to GET UP! As soon as you stand up after you’ve been sitting for a long period of time, a number of molecular cascades occur: For example, muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol are activated.
Surprising as it may sound, all of these molecular effects are activated simply by carrying your body weight upon your legs. These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuels into your cells and, if done regularly, will radically decrease your risk of diabetes and obesity.
So how do you fix this sitting problem? You need a goal! Your best solution is to stand up as much as possible, making it your goal to sit for three hours or less during your waking hours.
Truly sitting less requires a change in thinking and being; a change in how we live, really. We all have the power to do something-that’s the great part. While I understand that it may seem “impossible,” it is doable-with a bit of ingenuity and mindfulness.
Even if you are too old, frail or disabled to consider standing, much less a high-intensity program, don’t resign yourself to doing nothing! Barring coma of full-body paralysis, virtually everyone can do something in terms of physical movement. As long as you do what you can, and keep pushing your limits little by little, you’ll be amazed at how much you can improve.
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