Is Your Chair Killing You?

Written By Marie Ramsay, Registered Kinesiologist
Chairs. We sit in them, eat in them, drive in them, date in them, entertain in them, watch tv in them, work in them, shop in them…some of us even mow the lawn in them! Over the last 120 years the evolution of ‘modern day living’ has transformed us from being routinely active to being routinely sedentary.
One of the questions I ask patients as part of an initial assessment for one of the programs we run at the clinic is, “How much time did you spend sitting in one day last week?” I am always amazed at the responses. Patients consistently underestimate the time they spend sitting….and not by minutes, but by hours. Even seemingly active people tend to spend a significant amount of time sitting.
Studies have demonstrated that the average American sits in excess of 13 hours a day. Canadians likely do not differ much. Unfortunately, sitting has come at significant cost to our health and our health care dollars.
In 2010, the journal of Circulation published a study that followed 8,800 adults for 7 years. The study found that those who sat watching tv for more than 4 hours a day had a 46% increase in death from any cause compared to those who spent 2 hours or less watching the tube. (Time spent in front of a tv is likely a marker indicative of how much or how little movement is incorporated into our day in general.) Other researchers have concluded that sitting for more than half the day doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Our modern lifestyle and the conveniences that deter us from moving are literally driving us to an early expiry date.
Lack of movement slows the metabolism – its effects take place at the molecular level regardless of whether you are lean or obese. A slowed metabolism results in less fat burning, and increases the storage of excess calories into fat. The human body was not designed to sit idle. Sedentary lifestyles contribute significantly to the development of obesity and chronic disease conditions. Most of us are trying to avoid both.
So what if you simply moved more? What if you got up every hour and moved about, took a walk at lunch, or made walking a daily activity, stopped using the drive-thru option, took the stairs, adopted the habit of parking as far away as possible when shopping, stood up and paced around for half of your phone calls? I bet if you critically analyzed the time you spent sitting, you would find a number of opportunities to move more that would not actually cramp your schedule and would deliver a healthy reward for your investment.
We tend to associate health problems and obesity with eating too much, not sitting too much. Perhaps sitting is equally responsible. A sedentary lifestyle may be easier to change than your eating habits. Challenge yourself to sit less and move more. It could save your life!