Too Much Sitting is Linked to Disability

April 14, 2014

Too Much Sitting is Linked to Disability 

ReferenceJ Phys Act Health 2014 

 How much time do you spend each day sitting?   Ever thought about that?  Ever considered that there might be a limit to what is good for you?   Gives you pause, doesn’t it. Turns out that sitting for too long is not good for you.  In this breakthrough study from Northwestern University, sitting too long is identified as an independent risk factor for adults over age 60 for disability in performing activities of daily living like eating, getting out of bed, dressing and bathing. Is there a boundary over which you should be careful?   

It appears that 9 hours a day is sort of ok.  It is connected to a 3.6% chance of being limited in activities of daily living.  At that point, for each extra hour a day spent sitting, your chance of being unable to care for yourself increases 46%.  That means you hit about 21% chance of being unable to care for yourself when you hit 15 hours a day.  That is about the limit of time you can spend sitting if not in bed. And here is final kicker.  This effect happens regardless of extra aerobic activity.  Working out heavily for 30 minutes doesn’t make up for sitting the rest of the time.  Ouch!! 

 The implications for the rest of us, prior to being in our “declining years” might be pretty big.  Most of us sit at desks.  Standing seems to be the answer.  It’s not aerobic.  It doesn’t get top billing when it comes to buying nice expensive spandex, but it’s not sitting, and it’s enough. Let’s get specific here.  Can you find yourself a grease board you can jot notes down that you put up in your cubicle?  You can stand in front of that and draw concepts and put up your “to-do” list.  Can you get in the habit of talking on the phone, standing?   For a bonus round, can you get a standing desk?  Can you volunteer to take out the trash? Can you park your car at the far end of the parking lot?  It’s hours on the hoof that count.  As long as it’s not butt in the chair. 

WWW. What will work for me.  I’m eyeing a wall I have all my ridiculous certificates on.  It’s a great place for a concept board.   I could stand there when I’m at work.  I have been inspired by a friend who just got a standing desk.  My job is all sitting.  My car is sitting.  My computer is sitting.  Supper is sitting.  TV is sitting.  At least winter is over and the yard beckons.  Stop by and see the grease board.  See if I really did it!   

Pop Quiz

  1. Sitting is an independent risk factor for further disability with activities of daily living?  T or F.                 Answer:  True 
  2.  The threshold for starting to show decline appears to be about 6 hours.  T or F.           Answer:  Nine hours was the threshold this study considered meaningful 
  3.  We all prefer to sit rather than stand, walk or run.  T or F                  Answer: The nature of all animals is to rest when all needs are met. 
  4.  The effect of prolonged sitting is softened by 30 minutes of daily rigourous exercise.  T or F                     Answer:  False, darn it.   
  5. Just walking around or standing seems to be sufficient to soften the deleterious effect of sitting.  T or F                      Answer:   True 
  6.  If you have a sedentary desk/computer job, you would be well served to have some structure part of your day standing or walking – on the order of several hours worth.  T or F                          Answer: T   That’s the implication of this study.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     This  column was written by Dr John Whitcomb at Brookfield Longevity in Brookfield Wisconsin.