Maybe chairs need warning labels like cigarettes — because the risks of too much sitting are every bit as bad as smoking.
And in some ways, they’re even worse.
Sitting can slow the body’s metabolism to a crawl, which is why it’s been linked to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even death — and a new study makes the connection again, especially in men.
The more you sit, the higher your risk — and all it takes for your own chronic disease risk to climb is four hours a day in a chair.
That’s just half a normal workday.
If you sit for six hours, the risks shoot up even higher — especially your risk of diabetes, according to the study of 63,048 Australian men between the ages of 45 and 65.
What’s especially alarming is that it doesn’t matter if you’re comfortable in skinny jeans or if you have a few extra pounds packed around your middle — if you’re in a chair most of the day, your risk will rise, and not even regular exercise will do much to reverse it, according to the study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
The study was on men, but the risks of the sedentary lifestyle extend to men and women alike — and they’re beyond dispute at this point, with sedentary people facing a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and more.
Here are a just a few of the studies on this published in recent weeks:
Colon risk: Colon cancer is a detectable, treatable, and curable disease. But if you sit a lot, your own odds of beating it will plunge. People who spend six or more hours a day sitting before the diagnosis have a 36 percent higher risk of dying from the disease. And sitting after diagnosis will increase the risk by 27 percent. Regular exercise — even something as simple as walking for more than two hours a week — can cut your death risk by up to 42 percent.
Sexual health: Men who watch 20 hours of television or more each week have 44 percent fewer sperm than men who watch less than four hours a week. It’s not the TV killing your sperm — it’s all the sitting you do while watching it.
Weight gain: Since women have left the “traditional” household role and taken up office jobs alongside men, they burn 360 fewer calories a day. I’m not suggesting women belong in the kitchen. Rather, men and women alike should get back to basics, skip conveniences such as landscapers, and do the house and yard work together as a way to keep moving at home.
Again, that’s not all the research on this. That’s not even most of the research on this. That’s just a small sample of the studies published over the past month or so.
If you don’t want to face all those risks and more, there’s an easy solution.
If most of your sitting is done at home, get off of your sofa and get moving. And if your sitting takes place in an office, find ways to get up, stretch, and walk around throughout the day.
Don’t forget to get regular exercise, too. Just make sure that exercise is in addition to regular movement — not instead of it.
Dr. Mark Stengler