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Stand Up, Walk Around & Cut Down on Inflammation
This article was contributed by Dr. Deana Ferreri. Deana Ferreri holds a Ph.D. in cardiovascular physiology, and as a part of Dr. Fuhrman’s team she writes about nutrition science for DrFuhrman.com and Diseaseproof.com. Keep up to date with her writing on these two sites, and by following Dr. Fuhrman on Facebook and Twitter.
Prolonged sitting is associated with increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.[1, 2] This is troubling, since most of us sit for most of the day. Since 1950, there has been an 83% increase in sedentary jobs. Many of us sit all day while we work, and then go home and sit for most of the evening – at the dinner table, at the computer, and on the couch.
Just like exercise, prolonged sitting has distinct physiological effects. But unlike exercise, sitting has unhealthy effects. After just a few days of bed rest, increased insulin resistance and unfavorable vascular changes can be detected in healthy subjects.
Exercise is one effective way to counteract these effects, but what about the rest of our day? If we spend an hour, or even two, exercising vigorously each day, is that enough to counteract the effects of the 8-12 hours we may spend sitting down? It turns out that the answer is no. Of course, exercise is beneficial – regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and several cancers. However, prolonged sitting has been linked to increased risk of death regardless of the amount of exercise activity performed.
In addition to exercising daily, we also need to increase our non-exercise physical activity. Non-exercise physical activity, though its intensity is low, makes a significant contribution to our overall calorie expenditure. In fact, in people who do not exercise regularly, 90% of caloric expenditure is on standing, non-exercise movement.  We can increase non-exercise physical activity simply by taking frequent breaks from sitting. When we are sitting our muscles are idle, but once we stand up, there is measurable activity in the large muscles of our legs – the body is physically active when we are standing.
1. van Uffelen, J.G., et al., Occupational sitting and health risks: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med, 2010. 39(4): p. 379-88.
2. Manson, J.E., et al., Walking compared with vigorous exercise for the prevention of cardiovascular events in women. The New England journal of medicine, 2002. 347(10): p. 716-25.
3. The Price of Inactivity. American Heart Association.
4. Hamburg, N.M., et al., Physical inactivity rapidly induces insulin resistance and microvascular dysfunction in healthy volunteers. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 2007. 27(12): p. 2650-6.
5. Patel, A.V., et al., Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2010. 172(4): p. 419-29.
6. Hamilton, M.T., D.G. Hamilton, and T.W. Zderic, Role of low energy expenditure and sitting in obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes, 2007. 56(11): p. 2655-67.