We all want to stay healthy and live a long and fulfilling life, and the internet is full of advice and tips on how to do so. But aside from a healthy diet, preventive medical care, and regular exercise, what else can you do to stay healthy? The answer might surprise you.
Lately researchers have focused on sitting as a predictor of health risks. Yes, that’s right; the simple act of sitting – or what they call “sedentary activity” – predicts more about your health than you might think. This is even true for people who otherwise schedule exercise sessions of 30 minutes or more per day.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the average person sits for 9 to 10 hours every day. As you might expect, that number often grows as we get older. The danger of sitting lies not simply in lack of exercise, but in the specific biological activity that occurs within your body during sedentary activity.
Researchers have pinpointed higher levels of triglycerides, blood sugar, and C-reactive proteins in those who engage in more sedentary activity. These health markers are linked to inflammation, and ultimately type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome.
Yes, this is even true for those who schedule regular exercise sessions. In just one day of inactivity, the cellular processes that break down dangerous fats in the blood begin to slow. “Good” cholesterol in the blood, which helps to control “bad” cholesterol, begins to decline. From there, the negative health effects can begin to multiply.
What can you do to avoid too much sitting?
- Set a timer and remember to get up and walk around, even briefly
- Use a standing desk instead of sitting, for emailing, using social media, or online shopping
- Go for a walk after meals
- Avoid long periods of TV time and schedule other activities throughout the day
- Choose hobbies that encourage movement, like gardening
- Join community groups that help you to stay active, and make friends with active people
- Avoid driving whenever possible; walking, biking, and even public transit encourage more exercise (you’ll have to walk to bus stops, for example)
Finally, too much sedentary activity can be both a symptom of depression and a contributor to it. This can be a cycle that becomes difficult to break. If you suspect you might be depressed, talk to your doctor about the treatments or preventive steps available to you.