You are probably sitting down right now reading this. I am sitting as I type this. Unfortunately, sitting is something that we cannot avoid. We sit at work, school, while driving, watching television, waiting in lobbies, the list goes on. Although we often feel relief while sitting, we do not realize the damage that extended periods of sitting does to our bodies.
Dr. Joan Vernikos, a NASA scientist, and author of book “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals” studied the aging process of astronauts while in space, who were found to be prematurely aging in space. Dr. Vernikos noted the same findings in bed ridden individuals. What these 2 groups had in common was the lack of interaction with gravity.
The changes in bone and muscle that occur here on Earth in one year’s time is approximately one percent loss of bone or one percent loss of muscle. In space this occurs in just one week to one month. Incredibly, you get close to a 10-fold acceleration of the aging process when you live in a gravity-free environment!
Some of the effects of prolonged sitting are:
- loss of bone mass
- loss of muscle tissue (atrophy)
- abnormal stresses on the spine, disc, and nerves due to poor posture
- increased risk for cardiovascular disease
- increased risk for obesity
Interestingly, lipoprotein lipase (an enzyme that attaches to fat in your bloodstream and transports it into your muscles to be used as fuel) is dramatically reduced during inactivity, and increases with activity. The most effective activity is standing up from a seated position, hence going against gravity.
Does this mean you should never sit? No! Prolonged standing can also negatively affect the body. It’s all about moderation and incorporating different movements into our daily routine. As Dr. Vernikos stated, “ It’s not how many hours of sitting that’s bad for you; it’s how often you interrupt that sitting that is GOOD for you!”. This means getting up after every 20 minutes of sitting, changing positions, jumping, squatting, kneeling, the possibilities are endless!
So by the time you finish reading this, don’t just sit there, stand up, jump up, and don’t let gravity keep you down!