What happens when you sit

When you sit, electrical activity in your muscles slows down, causing the following changes in your body:

  • Calorie-burning rate drops to about 1 calorie a minute (compare to 3 calories a minute when you’re walking), which for many people translates to weight gain
  • Insulin effectiveness drops, increasing your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  •  Enzymes that break down lipids and triglycerides drop, causing levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to drop, too.

Sitting for long periods every day is also linked with increased risks of cancer and stroke, and may affect mood, too.

Even if you exercise regularly, which has tremendous health benefits, if you sit for much of the day, you expose yourself to real health risks.

Aging intensifies the effects

New research links long-term sitting with disabling conditions in people 60 and over. According to a study from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, adults this age sit for an average of two-thirds of their waking time — or around 9 hours a day. Every additional hour that they spend sitting increases their risk of being disabled for activities of daily living (like bathing, dressing, and walking) by 50 percent.

The takeaway

It’s way too easy to lapse into a sedentary lifestyle. If you work in an office, you may be required to spend many hours each day in front of a computer. When you’re home, television and computers, sources of movies as well as news and other information, can be hard to resist. These tips can help:

  • If you usually sit at a desk to do your work, think of switching to a stand-up desk, at least for part of the day. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Search “make your own stand-up desk” in your browser, and you’ll find plenty of inspiration.
  • If a stand-up desk isn’t right for you, be sure to get up and move around for a short time at least once an hour.
  • Put your printer and your wastebasket at a distance from your desk.
  • At home, replace the remotes with leg power.
  • Budget your recreational screen time.  
  • Make a point of standing when you talk on the phone.