Nutrition-wise blog

Do you have 'sitting disease'?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. July 25, 2012

How many hours each day do you sit? At work? In the car? At meals? In front of the TV?

You might be surprised to learn that:

  • 50 to 70 percent of people spend six or more hours sitting a day
  • 20 to 35 percent spend four or more hours a day watching TV

These numbers come from a recent study looking at sedentary behavior. The study looked at the most recently available data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys — a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. This survey examines a nationally representative sample of about 5,000 people each year.

This study went on to reveal that Americans' sedentary lifestyle shortens their life expectancy. If Americans would cut their sitting time in half, their life expectancy would increase by roughly:

  • 2 years (by reducing sitting to less than 3 hours a day)
  • 1.4 years (by reducing TV time to less than 2 hours a day)

From previous studies we also know that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers (breast and colon).

Physical activity seems to reduce risks by increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing body fat, inflammation and certain hormonal imbalances. So becoming more active also makes life — in general — healthier and easier.

Experts are beginning to agree that being more active simply means moving more during the day. So how can we fight "sitting disease"? Here are some thoughts:

  • Stand more (set a timer and stand hourly)
  • Change traditional video games into activity promoting ones — or buy an exercise video
  • Walk while on the phone
  • Get a pedometer and count your steps — increase from your baseline
  • Take stairs up one floor or down two (consider more)

The solutions seem simple, but the effects may be profound. In addition to increasing your life expectancy, you may lose a few pounds and stress less. What are your suggestions for stamping out "sitting disease"?

July 25, 2012