Sitting disease

Published January 6, 2019, 12:23 AM

by Dr. Jose Pujalte Jr.



“Here I and sorrows sit.” – William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English poet and playwright King John, Act. iii, Scene 1 (1623)

Not that we have obliterated smoking as a health hazard – society continues to a pay a price for a smoking public in labored breathing, with poor work output and cancer. But medical pundits have coined a new malady, “the sitting disease” and adding that it is “the new smoking.” The sitting disease is simply long periods of inactivity in a day, usually about eight hours, and its negative consequences. A Mayo Clinic cardiologist warned that “For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.” The British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends that “prolonged sitting should be considered within occupational health and safety policies and practices just like other elements of posture.”

Facts and Furious. An American Cancer Society 2010 study followed 123,216 individuals (69,776 females and 53,440 males) from 1993 to 2006. It revealed that 94% of women who were inactive and sat over 6 hours a day were more likely to die than those who sat less than 3 hours and day and were active. Inactive men (sitting over six hours a day) were 48% more likely to die than their active counterparts.

Another study reported in the Mayo Clinic website compared adults who spent less than two hours in front of the TV against more than four hours watching. The results showed that those with greater screen time had a nearly 50% increased risk of death from any cause and had more than a 100% increase in angina (chest pain) or heart attack.

Metabolic Syndrome. It isn’t just TV vegetating that is the problem. There is prolonged sitting at work too, driving and sitting in traffic, even the commute. Indeed, sitting has now been linked to the metabolic syndrome that is a cluster of conditions presenting as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, and high cholesterol.

What to Do. The first thing is to get up! The recommendation is 5,000 steps a day, up to 10,000 steps and this can be measured using a pedometer. This gadget is available in most sports stores.

Some apply the “20-8-2” rule which is for every 20 minutes of sitting, stand up for 8 minutes and move for 2 minutes. Regular exercise still counts: thirty minutes of light to moderate activity every day for 5 days a week. Finally, there are ways to walk more: use the stairs, not the elevator; park away from the building entrance so you can walk more; at lunch break, include 15 minutes of walking. The new rule is to move more and sit less!

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