Even if you regularly exercise when not sitting behind your desk, it still significantly raises your risk for diabetes, heart disease (including strokes and heart attacks), obesity and even certain types of cancer. For every two hours of sitting, you raise your risk of colon cancer by 8 percent, endometrial cancer by 10 percent, and lung cancer by 6 percent.
The Mayo Clinic did a study of how sitting affects blood sugar spiking and what they found was amazing. If the study participants went back to sitting after a meal, or ate while sitting at their desk, their blood sugar peaked and stayed there for two hours. However, if the same participants took a 15-minute walk at just 1 mph after eating, their blood sugar peaks were cut in half. Of course your risk for developing diabetes increases if you consistently have high blood sugar.
When we sit, we are not burning as many calories as we would if we were up and moving around. So it takes longer for our bodies to burn off the calories we ate at lunch. This keeps the blood sugar higher for a longer period of time. And of course high blood sugar in effect causes tiny tears on the inside of veins and arteries – prime places for plaque to start accumulating and eventually cause heart disease. In the American Heart Journal article Circulation: Heart Failure, it documented men who sat for more than 5 hours per day increased their risk of heart disease by 34% verses men who only sat 2 hours per day.
It is a well-documented fact that if you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight as the body stores the extra calories it doesn’t need at the time. It is a natural defense mechanism so that we have fat stores to draw upon in case of lean times.
By sitting, we are not burning off the calories we had for lunch and any snacks eaten during the day. The extra calories increase your weight which in effect start to cause other health problems, including diabetes. In a way it becomes the “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma. Did diabetes cause your obesity or did your obesity cause diabetes?
How You Can Reduce Your Risk
There are several things you can do to lessen your risk of health issues due to sitting. First, get up and move around. That can mean walking over to a colleague’s desk instead of sending an email. Frequently get up and get a glass of water from the water cooler or a cup of coffee from the break room or cafeteria.
Next, take a short 15-minute walk outside after lunch. Not only will it lower your blood sugar spike, but it will clear your head and reduce stress.
Finally get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate to high-intensity cardio exercise per week along with muscle-strengthening workouts twice per week. While exercise won’t completely offset the effects of prolonged sitting, it will help.
If you have a say in your office décor, consider getting a standing desk. Your body will thank you for it.