(02/13/23) BATON ROUGE, La. — Sitting for long stretches each day can contribute to heart disease and other negative health outcomes, researchers say.
This month — named American Heart Month through a presidential proclamation — LSU AgCenter health educators are encouraging Louisianians to sit less with the publication of Sit Less for Better Health, a fact sheet filled with helpful tips and illuminating research.
Long periods of uninterrupted sitting are associated with many serious health issues, according to the publication by AgCenter nutrition specialist Elizabeth Gollub and Daniela Quan, who recently graduated from LSU with a master’s degree in human nutrition.
“Sitting too much contributes to the development of chronic diseases — for example, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer,” Quan said. “It can also increase depression and anxiety in some.”
On average, American adults sit for nine and a half hours a day, Quan and Gollub learned in their research, with office workers averaging almost 15 hours a day.
While most research focuses on the cardiovascular effects of prolonged sitting, sitting too much can also weaken bones because the skeletal system receives less stress, said Gollub, an assistant professor in the AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences and a registered dietitian.
Sitting for long stretches may also offset the positive effects of exercise. Those who meet the recommended physical activity guidelines but still sit too much are deemed “active couch potatoes,” Gollub said.
“You could be someone who exercises daily — someone who runs several miles a day, for instance — but if you’re sitting still for more than eight hours without being interrupted, you could still have the same problems as someone who just sat all day but occasionally got up,” she said.
The good news is that introducing any amount of standing or activity can help lessen the negative detrimental effects of sitting, Gollub said.
“If you just do something, that is better than doing nothing,” Gollub said. “Even if you do a small bit, even if you literally stand every 45 minutes, you’re going to be doing something better for yourself. If you stand and move, that’s even better.”
Standing and small amounts of regular movement improve circulation, which “will help with all the stiffness that sets in when we sit still because it stimulates muscle contractions and increases blood flow,” Gollub said.
A few simple alterations can improve a sedentary lifestyle, Gollub and Quan said. Their recommendations include:
— Standing during online meetings or while on the phone. “If you’re going to talk on your phone, you may as well be pacing back and forth,” Gollub said.
— Walking a little faster. “When you’re walking, walking more rapidly is more helpful,” Gollub said. “You don’t have to do a power walk. If you could walk at a good pace as opposed to strolling, that would be helpful.”
— Changing your work environment to encourage movement. “Put things that you normally need to reach just a little bit too far away,” Gollub said. “That way you may not stand up every minute, but you will have to get up and reach over, and that will get you going a little bit.”
— Avoiding email and texting. “Even if it’s one time a day, go ask questions in person instead of sending an email,” Gollub said. “I’m consciously trying to stand more because I’m trying to take my eyes off the screen for a few minutes and walk.”
To learn more, read Sit Less for Better Health at lsuagcenter.com/articles/page1675263872421.
Contact: Elizabeth Gollub at firstname.lastname@example.org