step away from your chair

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Sitting is the most underrated health threat of modern times. This subtle epidemic is eroding our health. On a global level, inactivity now kills more people than smoking.

Sitting more than six hours a day greatly increases your risk of an early death. No matter how much you exercise, eat well, avoid smoking, or add other healthy habits, excessive sitting will cause problems. Every hour you spend on your rear end — in a car, watching television, attending a meeting, or at your computer — saps your energy and ruins your health.

Sitting also makes you fat. Over the span of the last two decades, while exercise rates stayed the same, time spent sitting increased, and obesity rates doubled. One leading diabetes researcher claims that sitting for extended periods poses a health risk as “insidious” as smoking or overexposure to sunlight. He contends that physicians need to view exposure to sitting just like a skin cancer expert views exposure to direct sunlight.

“Sitting disease” takes a toll in the moment. As soon as you sit down, electrical activity in your leg muscles shuts off. The number of calories you burn drops to one per minute. Enzyme production, which helps break down fat, drops by 90 percent.

After two hours of sitting, your good cholesterol drops by 20 percent. Perhaps this explains why people with desk jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease. Or as another diabetes researcher put it, even two hours of exercise will not compensate for spending 22 hours sitting on your rear end.

Yet for many people, sitting for several hours a day is inevitable. The key is to stand, stretch, and increase activity as much as possible. Get up and move around while you’re watching television. Walk to someone’s office instead of calling.

Simply standing in place increases your energy more than sitting. Walking increases energy levels by about 150 percent. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator increases energy by more than 200 percent. Instead of viewing a long walk as something you don’t have time for, think of it as an opportunity to get in some extra activity that will make you healthier.

By tom rath
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