Is sitting the new cancer? This attention grabbing and alarming statement was first made by Apple CEO, Tim Cook when he was marketing the benefits of the new Apple Watch. The feature of the watch in question was a reminder which would alert the user to move around at the end of every hour, as reported by The Guardian.
Though cancer remains the same, a disease in which an uncontrollable mass of growing cells spreads throughout the body, the question remains–Is sitting or a sedentary lifestyle one of the new health epidemic of our age? And, how bad is it really?
According to the Mayo Clinic website, in a question answered by Dr. James A Levine, M.D., Ph.D., studies conducted over the years have shown that increased rates of sitting are connected to higher number of health problems, such as hypertension, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and increased body fat in the waist region.
Furthermore, in a study comparing adults who spend 4 or more hours compared to those who spent less than 2 hours sitting in front of a screen (such as TV/recreational reasons), researchers found that the first group had a fifty percent chance of increased risk of death from any cause and a 125 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease symptoms (angina or heart attack).
According to an article by The Washington Post, sitting too much can have problems elsewhere in the body. For instance, a slowdown in activity level can also cause a decrease in brain activity. Always straining your neck to look at a computer screen puts a strain on the cervical spine and lead to poor vertebrate alignment. Slouching in the neck can also spread to the shoulders and back.
In addition, excessive sitting does have a link to an increased risk of getting cancer in the colon, breast and endometrium, as written by The Washington Post. Because muscle cells that are inactive have a decreased level of response to insulin, the body is compelled to produce more insulin. This increase in insulin production also causes an increase in cell growth, one of the factors in cancer.
To combat the ill effects of sitting too long throughout the day, experts recommend walking when commercials air and to switch between sitting and standing when busy at the workstation. If that isn’t possible, experts recommend standing up and walking around about every thirty minutes. Yoga poses are also a great way to increase flexibility in the back. Finally, if sitting for a long amount of time is inevitable, then experts recommend proper sitting posture. This includes sitting with the back straight, having relaxed shoulders, and feet flat on the floor.