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Do you have sitting disease?

Presented by:

Urgent Care Hawaii
By: Pani Shoja, MD
Medical Director – Urgent Care Hawaii

If you are sitting down while reading this, you might want to stand up now. Sedentary behavior has long been associated with an increased risk of the development of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Recent studies show that excessive sitting is detrimental to the body’s metabolic system. Medical experts are now referring to long periods of physical inactivity as “sitting disease” and it is linked to a myriad of health problems; it can even be deadly. Pani Shoja

A new study of older women in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that sitting for long stretches of time increases the odds of an untimely death. The more hours women in the study spent sitting, the greater their odds of dying early from all causes, including heart disease and cancer. Cardiovascular risk is greatest among women who reported sitting 10 or more hours a day while getting little to no physical activity. Researchers also find that prolonged sitting has a negative effect on heart health, mostly among women who are overweight or greater than 70 years old.

Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., the former director of Life Sciences at NASA and author of The G-Connection: Harness Gravity and Reverse Aging, and Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, was responsible for monitoring the health of astronauts. Her experimental research shows that periodically standing up 32 to 36 times a day helps to reverse the health damages caused by sitting disease. In fact, standing several times a day using the same energy expenditure is more efficient in regulating insulin and lipids than a bout of intense exercise once a day sitting the same amount of time. Vernikos states, “It’s not how many hours of sitting is bad for you; it’s how often you interrupt that sitting that is good for you.”

Pani ShojaThese findings support what many experts have feared—that our sedentary lifestyle could have a serious impact on our health. Even if we get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity most days, it doesn’t erase the consequences of sitting for long periods of time on a regular basis. People who exercised regularly also risked shortening their lifespan if most of their daily hours were sedentary ones. It is clear that a regular exercise program, though necessary for health, does not compensate for damage incurred by prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity.

Health problems believed to be linked to sitting disease:

• Heart Disease
• Diabetes
• Cancer
• Back pain
• Decreased mobility and flexibility
• Weight gain
• Worse mental health
• Higher risk of being disabled

James Levine, M.D. Ph.D. is the Director of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Solutions Initiative. He recently wrote the book, Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It. Dr. Levine also helped found the first JustStand Wellness Summit. His original scientific research shows that today’s chair-based world, where we no longer use our bodies as they evolved to be used, is having negative consequences on our health. He remarks, “Sitting, we know from studies in rural populations, is supposed to be undertaken in short batches to break up the motion of a dynamic day. But the opposite has become the modern way; we sit for 13 hours a day, sleep for 8 and move for 3.” According to Levine, for every hour we spend sitting in our chairs, we lose two hours of our lives.

Don’t just sit there. Stand up.

Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., the former director of Life Sciences at NASA and author of The G-Connection: Harness Gravity and Reverse Aging, and Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, was responsible for monitoring the health of astronauts. Her experimental research shows that periodically standing up 32 to 36 times a day helps to reverse the health damages caused by sitting disease. In fact, standing several times a day using the same energy expenditure is more efficient in regulating insulin and lipids than a bout of intense exercise once a day sitting the same amount of time. Vernikos states, “It’s not how many hours of sitting is bad for you; it’s how often you interrupt that sitting that is good for you.”

The American Cancer Society recommends that all public health messages should include both being physically active and reducing time spent sitting, and the American Medical Association recommends alternative means to prolonged sitting like standing desks, exercise balls and desk treadmills.

Tips to help prevent Sitting Disease

• Consider switching to a standing or sit/stand desk.
• Set your phone alarm to go off every 50 minutes – do 10 minutes of stretches and movement, such as walking on stairs or dancing.
• Stand while talking on the phone.
• If working at home, consider several “housework” or “outdoor chores” breaks. It is a good way to incorporate standing and movement into the day (not to mention keeping up with everything). For example, run the vacuum, wash a couple of windows or do some raking or sweeping outside.
• Schedule outdoor walking meetings instead of sitting meetings.
• Incorporate more walking into your daily life. Park farther away from your destination. Take the stairs and skip the elevator.
• Bring in some small weights and resistance bands to the office. Do arm curls while reading your computer screen and use the resistance bands when take your stretch breaks.
• Put your water bottle a few steps away from your desk, on another desk, window sill, etc. so that every time you want to drink (and you should be drinking every 20 minutes), you have to stand up to get it.
• When a challenging situation arises, stand up and gain a new perspective.
• Bounce on a rebounder for 10 minutes twice a day to keep the lymph system moving.
• Do three full squats every hour.
• Put away the remote and walk to the TV to change the channels.
• During intense gaming, stand up in between sessions and screen loads.
• Stand up when you open and read your mail.

So, mix it up and spend your time between standing and sitting. Stand up. Sit down. Move around, shift your position, put on your headphones and dance for a few minutes. No partner necessary.

Before starting any health program or taking any supplements or herbs, seek the advice of a healthcare professional. Talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information presented here is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Mahalo,

Pani Shoja, MD
Urgent Care Hawaii
Medical Director

Urgent Care Hawaii
Waikiki – Kailua – Kapolei – Pearl City

Resources:

WebMD
http://www.webmd.com

Just Stand.org
http://juststand.org

American college of Preventive Medicine
http://www.acpm.org

Mayo Clinic
http://www.mayoclinic.org

James A. Levine, MD, Ph.D., Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, (Palgrave Macmillan Trade)

Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, (Quill Driver Books)

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