Sitting Is the New Cancer: Health Hazards of Prolonged Sitting
Work Wellness

Sitting Is the New Cancer: Health Hazards of Prolonged Sitting

|Sep 10, 2023
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In recent years, scientists and doctors have become worried about how we spend a lot of time sitting down. It turns out that sitting for long periods can be harmful to our health, and some people even compare it to a hidden danger like cancer. That’s why many people say “Sitting is the new cancer.”

In this article, we'll explore the research that links sitting too much with health problems, including cancer risk. We'll look at studies showing how sitting too much can harm us. By understanding how this happens, we hope to show why it's essential to be more active and avoid sitting too long. We'll also explore some simple changes we can make in our daily routines to stay healthier and reduce the risks associated with sitting too much, like purchasing a standing desk chair.

So read on and find out.

How Sitting Affects Our Health: Is Sitting The New Smoking?

Sitting is the new cancer? Prolonged sitting can lead to various health risks due to reduced energy expenditure compared to standing or moving. Studies have linked extended sitting to obesity and metabolic syndrome, a combination of health issues like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Furthermore, excessive sitting and prolonged sedentary behavior have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer-related deaths.

Whether you spend long hours sitting at a desk, behind the wheel, or in front of a screen, it can harm your health. Researchers examined 13 studies focusing on sitting time and activity levels. They found that individuals who sat for more than eight hours a day without engaging in physical activity faced a risk of death similar to obesity and smoking. However, they also discovered that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate physical activity each day could counteract the adverse effects of prolonged sitting.

For those who are highly active or have a standing desk at their workplaces, sitting time has minimal impact on their risk of death due to standing desk ergonomics, according to other studies.

How Sitting Affects Our Health: Is Sitting The New Smoking?

The Link Between Sitting and Cancer Risk

Sitting is the new cancer? Emerging evidence points to a higher risk of cancer associated with prolonged sitting. According to a study in Cancer, individuals sitting for over six hours daily face a 20% greater chance of developing cancer than those sitting for less than three hours.

Although the exact mechanism linking sitting and cancer risk remains unclear, some theories have been proposed. One suggests that sitting triggers inflammation, a known cancer risk factor. Another proposes that prolonged sitting disturbs the body's metabolism, leading to the accumulation of harmful substances.

While the link is most robust for colon cancer, it also correlates with increased breast, lung, and prostate cancer risks.

Fortunately, incorporating even a small quantity of physical activity can help lower cancer probability. The ACS recommends grown ups do weekly aerobic exercise minimums of 150 minutes at moderate intensity or 75 minutes at high intensity. Being active can be crucial in reducing the potential dangers of extended sitting.

Simple Steps to Stay Active and Healthy

1. Take Frequent Walk Breaks

Our bodies are designed for movement, not prolonged sitting. Incorporating frequent walk breaks into your day can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Take a five-minute stroll around your workspace every hour, or stretch your legs outside. Not only does this keep your muscles engaged, but it also provides a mental refresh, boosting focus and productivity.

Take Frequent Walk Breaks

2. Choose Active Transportation

Consider choosing active transportation options like walking or biking for short distances when possible. By replacing car rides with these activities, you get the benefits of physical exercise and contribute to a greener environment by reducing carbon emissions.

3. Stretch Regularly

Maintaining flexibility is crucial for overall body health. Set aside a few minutes each day to perform stretching exercises. Stretching helps alleviate muscle tension, improves blood circulation, and reduces the risk of injury during physical activities.

Stretch Regularly

4. Embrace Desk Exercises

Even while you're busy at work, you can still find ways to be active. Desk exercises, like leg lifts, seated twists, and calf raises, can be discreetly performed while working. These movements keep your body in motion, preventing stiffness and supporting better posture. Replacing your desk with a standing desk can help too.

Note: The standing desk height can be adjusted.

5. Engage in Household Chores

Turn household chores into opportunities for physical activity. Whether vacuuming, gardening, or cleaning, these tasks engage various muscle groups and burn calories. Plus, accomplishing household chores provides a sense of achievement and contributes to a clean and organized living space.

6. Take the Stairs

Whenever the option presents itself, opt for stairs over elevators or escalators. Climbing stairs effectively elevates your heart rate, engages your lower body muscles, and enhances cardiovascular health. It's a simple yet impactful way to incorporate exercise into daily life.

Take the Stairs

7. Join Active Social Activities

Physical activity doesn't have to be a solitary pursuit. Participating in active social gatherings, such as group sports, dancing classes, or hiking clubs, keeps you physically fit and fosters meaningful connections with others. The social aspect adds enjoyment to the activities, making them more sustainable in the long run.

8. Stand While Watching TV

Unwind after a long day by watching your favorite shows, but do so while standing or doing light exercises. During commercial breaks, you can do leg lifts, calf raises, or simple stretches. Avoiding excessive sitting, you maintain better circulation and minimize the health risks associated with sedentary behavior. The calories burned standing vs. sitting  further proves it's better to stand.

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9. Schedule Active Family Time

Make family time count by organizing outings that involve physical activities. Plan family bike rides, play ball games at the park, or take nature walks together. These activities promote a healthy lifestyle for the entire family, strengthening bonds and creating lasting memories.

Schedule Active Family Time

10. Stay Mindful of Screen Time

The convenience of modern technology has made screen time a significant part of our lives. However, excessive screen exposure can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, impacting physical and mental health. Be mindful of your screen usage, especially during leisure hours. Limiting screen time provides more physical activity opportunities, supports better sleep, and reduces eye strain.

Conclusion

The key takeaway in the debate of standing vs. sitting is that prolonged sitting and excessive standing have potential health risks. "Sitting is the new smoking" or “Sitting is the new cancer” reminds us that sedentary behavior can harm our health. Still, it's essential to understand that excessive standing or standing all day at work can also lead to issues such as varicose veins and foot discomfort.

The optimal approach is to balance sitting, standing, and regular movement throughout the day. Incorporating short breaks for standing, stretching, and light activity can help break up prolonged sitting and reduce the negative health impact. Similarly, alternating between sitting and standing can help prevent strain and fatigue associated with excessive standing.

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