Sitting, the new silent killer
New studies reveal that prolonged sitting is worse than smoking; with over 38% of Indian professionals spending time sitting
Being a couch potato or spending all day in that office chair is not good for you. Believe it or not, prolonged sitting is worse than smoking. New studies in the US and the British Journal of Sports Medicine reveal that a sedentary lifestyle could lead to early death and various illnesses, including high risk of cancer. The study mentions that there is a jaw-dropping 38% higher risk of early death associated with 12 hours of daily sitting. While most of us are caught in the rut of sitting and working for long hours, sitting has now become the new “silent killer”. Yet, amidst the challenges of a sedentary lifestyle, a simple 20–25-minute brisk walk or “light exercise” has emerged as a powerful antidote. It can significantly reduce the risk of premature death associated with prolonged sitting.
The number of physical and mental health problems associated with prolonged sitting is terrifying. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle pose significant health risks like cancer, Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, obesity, poor posture, muscle stiffness, muscle spasms, hypertension, and even anxiety.
Sharing his views on this new ‘silent killer’, Dr. Tarun Lala, physiotherapist and Zonal Head at Max HealthCare says, “Poor posture during prolonged sitting can lead to discomfort and pain, causing issues like kyphosis and lumbar lordosis. To counteract this, incorporate stretching exercises, take short breaks from sitting, engage in strengthening exercises, and consider activities like walking, yoga, household chores, cycling, and opting for stairs over lifts.”
One cannot fall short of words in describing the detrimental effects of sitting for long hours, whether it is in front of the television or for office work. According to research published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Psychiatry,’ prolonged sitting significantly affects the health of your brain. It can lead to depression, anxiety, stress, impaired memory, altered brain structure, and metabolic issues.
Deadly Desk Jobs
People working in high-stress jobs which involve sitting for long hours like BPO, call centres, client service, receptionists, data entry clerks, writers, secretaries, administrative workers, designers, and account managers are worst affected. They bear the brunt of the ugly side of prolonged sitting. Gloria Martis, who worked in the customer service industry for several years shares her dilemma.
“The constant sitting led to immense weight gain and back pain. The strain on the eyes from lack of rest was unbearable. Some colleagues started smoking excessively due to unrealistic targets. The physical toll is evident, but the mental stress and constant pressure reached a breaking point resulting in random bouts of tears and anxiety,” says Gloria.
Lisa Masceranhas, a call centre employee plagued by prolonged sitting says, “The late night shifts coupled with long hours of sitting brought about unbearable pain in the legs. I suffered from high blood pressure, migraines and rapid decline in physical and mental health.”
Walk The Talk
In today’s fast-paced life, it is easy to get trapped in the ‘sitting’ comfort zone without realising the colossal damage you are doing to your body. A mere 20–25 minutes of walking or daily physical activity can eliminate the increased risk of death from a sedentary lifestyle. Dr Kunal Bahrani, Director of Neurology, Fortis Hospital speaks about the effect and solution for prolonged sitting.
“Extended sitting increases pressure on the spine, affecting its natural curvature, and causes soreness. Those stuck to desk jobs can opt for easy moves like neck stretches and shoulder rolls to ease tension. Take brief walks or try desk yoga for a fast energy boost and a healthy nervous system.”
Aim for short breaks each 30 minutes to stretch and circulate around. Strive for at least 150 minutes of slight-depth workout per week, along with brisk walks or mild workout routines. Workouts like minimal weight training, a healthy diet and optimum sleep (7-8 hours), dancing, swimming, and a good posture are some excellent moves to keep the ‘sitting killer’ at bay. Small regular efforts all through the day can make a large distinction in treating our body. Stand up for your health, sit less, and feel the wealth!
Walk It Out
• A 5-minute light walk every 30 minutes reduces stress and fatigue [Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise]
• 60%-85% of people in the world lead a sedentary lifestyle (WHO)
• 20-25 minutes of daily physical activity curbs illnesses related to prolonged sitting [British Journal of Sports Medicine]
Incorporate stretching exercises, take short breaks from sitting, engage in strengthening exercises, and consider activities like walking, yoga, household chores, cycling, and opting for stairs over lifts.” — Dr Tarun Lala, physiotherapist and zonal head, Max HealthCare
Those with desk jobs can opt for easy moves like neck stretches and shoulder rolls to ease tension. Take brief walks or try desk yoga for a fast energy boost and a healthy nervous system.” — Dr Kunal Bahrani, director of Neurology, Fortis Hospital.
A sedentary lifestyle causes cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and anxiety [WHO]
People sitting for 10-12 hours daily have a 38% higher risk of dying early [British Journal of Sports Medicine]