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Is Your Chair Killing You?

by Kent Burden

A Healthier You In As
Little As 8 Minutes a Day.

As an internationally-renowned wellness expert and bestselling author, I've written the first comprehensive book on the subject of the perils of extended sitting, titled Is Your Chair Killing You? OK that's enough back-patting. This subject has been thrust into the national spotlight with a new Australian study that looked at death rates over a three-year period. The study concluded that people who spent a lot of time sitting at a desk or in front of a television were more likely to die sooner than those who were only sedentary a few hours a day. Of more than 200,000 adults age 45 and older, the lead author of the study Hidde van der Ploeg and her colleagues at the University of Sydney found that people who reported sitting for at least 11 hours daily were 40 percent more likely to die during the study than those who sat less than 4 hours daily.

The results appear in the Archives of Internal Medicine, March 26, 2012, and reveal that the link between too much time sitting and shortened lives stuck even when they accounted for how much moderate or vigorous exercise people got, as well as their weight and other measures of health.

This is yet another study in this developing field that points to sitting as a major risk factor in and of itself to our overall health, all of these studies conclude that getting the government-recommended amount of exercise won't counter the negative effects of sitting. We need to be more active over the course of the day.  This surprising flood of new research collectively points to the conclusion that sitting for long periods of time is just as dangerous as the use of tobacco products.

Lets face it you would never think that if you smoked a pack of cigarettes each day you could just go out and run a couple of miles and undo the damage that those cigarettes caused. Yet that has been the assumption we have been living under for many, many years about sitting. There are multiple reasons why extended periods of sitting can have a profoundly negative effect on the body. First sitting cuts off blood flow and traps blood in the buttocks and backs of the legs and can cause deep leg thrombosis which can lead to stroke or heart attack. The seated position is also hard on the lower spine causing back pain, which besides personal pain and suffering, is the leading cause of sick days taken by American workers.

When you spend most of your time sitting, your body's metabolism is basically in hibernation mode. Sitting is one of the most inactive things you can do. You burn more calories standing around twiddling your thumbs or chewing gum than you do just sitting in a chair doing nothing. When you are seated, electrical activity in the muscles drops, which leads to a series of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes which are responsible for sucking up fat and glucose from the bloodstream and also breaking down lipids and triglycerides plunge when the body remains in a seated position. This in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.

In short, sitting for long periods of time can lead to metabolic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity which is why we are seeing new study after new study pointing to an increased risk of death for people who do a lot of sitting around.
The most interesting thing about these studies,  is they all show that the activity doesn't need to be strenuous or sustained to be remarkably effective --simply getting up and walking or doing simple movements like the ones featured in my book Is Your Chair Killing You? over the course of the day for just 1-5 minutes at a time seems to do the trick.

Is Your Chair Killing You?  is available at amazon.com, smashwords.com, barnesandnoble.com and ibookstore.apple.com.