Where are you? What are you doing? Odds are you are probably sitting, and may have been for a while.
You wouldn’t believe it, but studies by various notable public health agencies (Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Family Physicians to name a few) have linked prolonged sitting with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and pre-term death.
WHAT?!? Yes, you read it right.
Prolonged sitting, that is 7.5 hours or more a day, is thought to be a huge deal-breaker for anyone trying to better their overall health and wellness. More than half of Americans spend their waking hours sitting. Albeit in a car, in transit, at work, or during leisure T.V. or internet time, these tasks are usually done sitting! You may be asking yourself, “Wait, what’s the big deal? I worked all day, and I’m tired!”
The truth of the matter is; you’re tired after a full day of screen time, because your body isn’t moving. When we sit for prolonged periods of time our bodies are immobile and the internal processes become sluggish. Meaning our brains and organs begin to process foods differently because they don’t need to use the energy consumed. Signals from the brain are sent to the stomach, liver, kidneys and pancreas telling those organs to “slow down” the digestive process, because we’re not “burning the fuel.”
What does that mean?
It means the food eaten during your breakfast, lunch, or dinner is not processed at priority level because there’s no reason to process it. Your body doesn’t need to! The fuel (food) is not being used as energy. If we think of the human body as the engine of a car, we can see food as energy in, energy out. Food is to the human body, as gasoline is to a car’s engine. If the car is moving, it uses gas, and expels the used gas in the form of carbon dioxide. If the car is at a standstill, or moving slowly, little to no gas is used. The gas essentially sits in the tank until the next long road trip. Hello fat cells!
What happens when we sit?
The human body uses food in a similar way. Food is inserted through the mouth, processed by the stomach and liver, and expelled by through the digestive track. The stomach and liver are a huge player in digestion by producing acids for optimal nutrient absorption through the pancreas and intestines. If the body doesn’t need the food immediately, it will send signals to store the energy (usually a form of carbohydrate) for a later time. The more you eat and sit, the more your body will store energy which converts to insulin. Excess insulin is thought to be related to various long-term health detriments such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
A small amount of nutrients is needed to fuel a sedated body. When we sit, the food we eat does not get processed the same as it would if we were moving. Idle muscles tend to burn less fat and sugar because the body doesn’t need the energy. Even some leisurely movement while sitting in meetings and talking on the phone has shown to burn calories and increase blood flow. The bottom line, moving your body throughout the day will help burn calories, increase your energy, and reduce disease!
Here are some starter tips to incorporate movement throughout your day:
-Stand while talking on the phone.
-Sit and stand in your chair 5-10 times every hour.
-Ask for walking meetings.
-Recruit a buddy with similar health goals and walk during breaks or lunch.
-Limit or stop daily intake of sugary drinks, sodas, or alcohol.
-Use steps whenever you can.
-Eat more lean and plant based protein than sugar.
Try to get at least some sporadic activity throughout your day.