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Stand Up Against “Sitting Disease”


By Molly Householder, CPT, Wellness Director

Chances are right now you are sitting in a chair or on a couch reading this. You should stand up. Stand up against sitting disease! What doctors and researchers have called a sedentary lifestyle is quickly becoming known as “sitting disease.” Prolonged hours of sitting between morning and bedtime have been shown by researchers to play a significant role in many of the most troublesome health issues of our time: from obesity and heart disease to diabetes and depression.

Sitting down for 60-90 minutes slows the metabolism down and is enough to shut down the enzymes responsible for producing HDL — the “good” cholesterol for regulating blood sugar. Movements like standing, walking, and other lower body movements stimulate your metabolism. Sitting down for long periods of time is also harder on your back than standing. The seated position puts a tension on the hamstrings and causes a flattening of the normal curve in the low back. Sitting in an upright or forward bent position, which is typical at a desk, is particularly hard on the back.

Think about your typical day: a drive to work in a car or on a bus, then an entire workday at a desk followed by heading home and unwinding in front of the television. Add in the time you sit while eating meals and, if this sounds like you, then you are not getting up and moving enough. A good rule of thumb in retirement or during working years is, if you have been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting too long. For 10 minutes of every hour, you need to be up and moving. Even if it is just to stretch or take a leisurely stroll, you should get up and move your muscles every hour. Let’s remember that muscles are responsible for every move that we make and our bodies are meant to move; this is why a sedentary lifestyle of sitting is putting your health at risk.

When you think about how people used to live before we could depend on email, cellphone apps, online banking, and shopping on the Internet, people had to get up and run errands. Just being up and moving throughout the day can be as healthy for you as doing a rigorous workout and then sitting the rest of the day. If you think about it, only a few decades ago, athletes and soldiers were the majority of people who “worked out.” Most people were up walking and working all day and that was how they stayed healthy.

For people over the age of 60, a sedentary lifestyle of sitting not only increases their risk for the above-mentioned diseases, but also their risk of disability. Adults this age spend an average of nine hours of their waking time being sedentary. Dorothy Dunlop, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University says that every additional hour spent sitting increases by 50 percent their risk of being disabled for activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and walking. For them, being active also reduces their risk of falling. The more they get up and move, the stronger their muscles are and the better stability they will have. Being less sedentary will also increase bone strength.

Now that you are motivated and ready to move, here are few suggestions on how to replace some of your time sitting with light activity:

  • If you are working at a desk all day, set a reminder every hour to get up and stretch or take a walk.
  • If you are watching television, use the commercial time to get up and walk or march in place.
  • Shop in the mall instead of on the Internet.
  • When you go shopping, park in a space far away.
  • Stand up. Once you stand up, you are more likely to move.

If you feel like you may suffer from “sitting disease,” look on the bright side, there is a cure. You don’t need a prescription from a doctor to feel better, you just need to get up and move.

For more information, please contact Molly Householder, CPT and wellness director, Westminster Village at 309-663-6474 or email:

Photo credit: claudiobaba/iStock