Nowadays, we are bombarded with reasons to sit down. Driving, deskwork, video games, and the television. Sitting down is one of the mankind’s most routine actions, and people report sitting a startling 9 hours or more. That’s more than the average adult sleeps. Because humans weren’t made for a sedentary lifestyle, sitting for an immeasurable amount of time can have devastating effects on your health.
While our Paleolithic ancestors didn’t wake up and do push-ups and bodyweight squats first thing before their shower, they did move from dusk to dawn within their hunter and gatherer communities.
Many Troglodyte groups, like the Neanderthal, rarely settled. In fact, they were reported to move in “cycles” around several caves, evidenced by the continuous growth of cave paintings, and other relics.
“Hunter and gatherers are thought to have walked 5.6 miles or more (9 kilometers) every day,” and because of this activity, our bodies adapted to “walk, run, climb, dig and throw” (LiveScience).
Cavemen also evolved to crave carbohydrates and fat, because these nutrients provide huge amounts of energy. With all the activity our ancestors faced in their daily lives, they didn’t have to worry about portion control when sitting down to eat.
Modern lifestyle woes
Of course, our adaptations are now largely unnecessary. Firstly, we no longer have to fear for our lives and be sporadic with our dwellings (those fortunate enough, anyway).
We have an overabundance of carbohydrate, sugar, and fat-rich foods that our ancestors had limited access to. Moreover, the downtime that Troglodytes relished and often needed has become the fulcrum of our modern day decadence.
Read also – 7 Reasons to Switch to an Elimination Diet
We no longer have the lifestyle that we were built for
As I said before, humans sit way more than our physical and mental states can tolerate. Yet we do it for several reasons: work, commuting, school, and laziness. Some people have driving jobs that keep them bound up in a tiny space for hours upon hours.
They resort to going through the drive-thru for a hamburger and fries. Although they did little to use up these calories throughout the day, they return home mentally drained. So, what do they do? They turn on their favorite TV show, plop down on the sofa, and say, “I am relaxing, because I had a stressful day at work.”
The risk of leisure
The fitness professional in me shudders at the above scenario. Oftentimes, I break it down for people by starting off like this: “sitting is killing you.”
Scientific research has proven that a sedentary lifestyle shaves years off your life. According to the World Health Organization, inactivity is the “fourth-leading risk factor for death” worldwide.
Know what else? Sitting for a prolonged period of time – around 2 hours at a time for more than 8-12 hours daily – can increase your risk of a metabolic syndrome by more than 85%.
Here are some other noted risks to sitting for too long:
- Obesity – around the time people started sitting more, obesity rates skyrocketed (between the 1980s to the 2000s).
- Good cholesterol drops during inactivity, and the bad kind increases
- Sitting for more than 3 hours non-stop increased your chance of dying from heart disease by 64%
- Sitting for 3 hours or more damages the body regardless of exercise
- Risk of cancer increases
- Increase of anxiety and depression
- Hopefully, that is enough of a revelation to have you standing up already.
That said, standing up alone will not save you from inactivity, although it burns a little more calories and keeps the body from shutting off its metabolic processes. The recommended changes need to first happen mentally.
Make it a habit of standing up, stretch, talk a quick walk and avoid scenarios where you must sit for extended periods. Do not give into laziness, because then you need to start back from square one.
The trick to combatting a sedentary lifestyle is doing the opposite or making some healthier swaps. For instance, at the desk, you can sit on a stability ball, which actively engages the muscles isometrically. Or you can get a standing desk. I have one and swear by it.
Do some chair yoga stretches in the cubicle or jog up and down the stairs a few times. Disregard the elevator. Instead of spending hours in front of the TV, go for a walk, do some gardening, light cleaning, or wash your car. When commercials come on, pump out some squats or push-ups.
Read also – 10 Yoga Poses That Improve Your Metabolism
In short, sitting will kill you. But this is one disease that you can actually control by simply standing up! It does not have to be much. When it comes to your health, a little activity goes a long way.