By: Daniel Bayman, intern
As you read this, the odds are you are sitting. This is known as a “sedentary behavior”. Sedentary behavior refers to any waking activity characterized by an energy expenditure ≤ 1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs) and a sitting or reclining posture. Simply stated, sedentary behavior is any time spent sitting or lying, excluding sleep. According to the data, Americans are sitting more often and for longer periods of time, mainly because of our increased use of technology.
By the numbers, the average American with a “hands-on” job, sits approximately 9 hours per day, while office working Americans sit an average of 13 hours per day. That is between 40 – 60% of our waking hours spent in sedentary behavior, another 30 – 40% is spent sleeping, leaving only 10 – 30% doing some form of physical activity, whether it be light, moderate, or vigorous. Usually that is divided into only 5% moderate activity and the rest light activity, as the average American does not spend a significant amount of time doing vigorous activity.
As we continue to learn more about how sedentary behavior affects our daily lives, and how we age, we see that an increased amount of sedentary time is far from a good thing. Increased sedentary behavior has been associated with increased mortality rate from any cause, reduced function in daily living, and increased risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. We don’t want any of these things, so we workout. That keeps us safe right? Well, not exactly and here is why…
Most of the research has shown that all the risk associated with increased sedentary behavior is independent of levels of physical activity. Simply stated, this means that even if you exercise an hour a day, and sit 9 hours a day you are still at an increased risk. In fact, some research has shown that 6 hours or more a day of sedentary behavior, negates some of the positive benefits we gain from exercise, especially if the exercise is done at a light or moderate level vs vigorous. Also, it is known that sitting for prolonged periods, reduces circulation and vasodilatation in the lower body, and decreases the neural impulses sent to lower body musculature. This can hinder recovery after a workout, as blood supply is an important part of muscle recovery and being able to perform.
In summary, just as with everything else, balance in our daily lives is important. Therefore, take steps to reduce the amount of sedentary time spent throughout the day, but first keep track of where you are now. It may be more than you thought, or hopefully less. Either way little things can be changed to increase the amount of light activity incorporated in your day, such as: eating one meal a day while standing, walking or doing chores during commercial breaks, having one-on-one meetings outside while walking, and breaking up the time spent in a sedentary position. Our modern lives demand sitting, so break it up in intervals, such as: 25 seated/5 up and moving around, or 50 seated/10 up and moving for when you’re in “the zone” at work.
Decreasing our sedentary behavior can help increase the amount of calories we burn doing light activity, decrease our risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, and help us get more accomplished throughout our day. This will not only be a positive change for general population, but also for those competing in sport activities. As always, be mindful of how you spend your day, and continue to take strides towards a more healthy satisfied you!