For the majority of Americans, sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day, driving home, and relaxing in front of the TV is simply their daily routine. Unfortunately, evidence is building that suggests sitting for too long can negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels, and in some cases lead to serious cardiovascular disease.
According to a Science Advisory from the American Heart Association, “The evidence to date is suggestive, but not conclusive, that sedentary behavior contributes to cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk.”
Unfortunately, the report also points out that it’s hard to measure exactly how inactive people are, and there is not yet enough evidence to show just how often you have to exercise to counteract the effects of sitting. Additionally, while health officials have issued guidelines that recommend minimum amounts of physical activity, they haven’t suggested people try to limit how much time they spend in a seated position.
Taking all of that into consideration, our team at Cardiac Monitoring Service agrees with the mantra many heart experts now promote; “Sit less, move more.”
To be more specific, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day as a minimum goal to combat the effects of sitting for extended periods of time. Workers who are desk-bound should also aim to get up and move around every hour or so during their work day.
US adults spend an average of 6 to 8 hours a day sitting, and adults over 65 commonly spend an average of 8.5 to 9.5 hours a day in sedentary time. Common sedentary behaviors include the obvious daily activities of television viewing, computer use, driving, and reading. However, sedentary behaviors can still include leisure activities that require sitting for extended periods of time, such as attending a religious service, arts and crafts, playing an instrument or playing cards.
Further, physically active jobs now make up less than 20% of our workforce, as opposed to more than half of all jobs in the 1960’s. With nearly three-quarters of our American adult population obese or overweight, an active lifestyle must be proactively prioritized outside of, and even during, normal work hours.
Even for people who exercise, spending long stretches of time sitting at a desk is still harmful. Tim Armstrong, a physical activity expert at the World Health Organization, said people who exercise every day but still spend a lot of time sitting might get more benefit if the exercise was spread across the day, rather than in a single session. Interrupt sitting as often as possible by taking breaks to take a brisk walk around your building, walk to ask your coworkers questions instead of sending an email, or try out some simple office-friendly yoga stretches you can do anywhere to help improve blood circulation.
The American Heart Association also has tips on how to get active that can help inactive individuals jump start their heart health and begin to enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle. It’s important to remember that when it comes to getting up and moving, something is always better than nothing, and everyone has to start somewhere!