Sitting — It’s Killing You

We’ve all been told about the dangers of sugar, fast food and poor sleeping patterns. Prolonged sitting might not sound like a game changer, but the reality is that it poses huge problems to your health. 

Dr James Levine from the Mayo Clinic has stated, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Why is sitting so dangerous and how can we minimise its effects in our modern world? Sitting in itself is not an issue but the problem arises with uninterrupted prolonged sitting.

The average American sits for over nine hours every day. We’re hedging a bet that Bahrain’s figures are not much better. In fact, we bet you are sitting right now! How long have you sat for today?
The first issue with sitting is that it inhibits the release of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase. This guy attaches himself to fat in the bloodstream and carries it to your muscles for fuel. If you or your child sits for a long time, then your body struggles to burn fat.

Using America’s stats once again, we can see that the average child spends three hours watching television per day. When you combine this with computer time, we are looking at over five hours of ‘screen time’. That is a fifth of a child’s twenty-four day spent sitting in front of a screen!

This becomes increasingly difficult to manage when the Middle East summer comes around. The benefits of a morning or evening walk in summer are priceless. Aside from the physical problems of excessive ‘screen time’, juniors are facing sleep problems and Vitamin D deficiencies. Let’s not forget the prospect of multinational food companies selling their nutritionally-limp products to young eyes.

Several studies have shown that sitting for six hours per day or more increases blood pressure, the risk of diabetes and rates of depression. People with sitting jobs have almost twice the rate of cardiovascular disease compared to those who are on the move.

In a nutshell, we were never meant to sit for extended periods. Sitting down all day in the car, sofa, office, school, dinner table and gym is a recipe for disaster.

Combating our ‘sitting culture’
April-2014__Parenting1_01Dr Joan Vernikos, a former director at NASA wrote the book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. She observed that astronauts, who returned from missions, aged remarkably in a short space of time. She put this down to prolonged sitting. Joan’s advice is to break up your sitting in frequent, short bursts throughout the day. Buy an egg timer or use a computer programme to remind you to stand and walk every hour. She also suggests opening up the back of your chair from 90 degrees to a wider angle.Walking is probably the most underestimated fitness activity you and your children can partake in. A few benefits of walking outside include metabolising fat, improved joint mobility, optimising Vitamin D levels, a social opportunity for the family and ‘servicing’ many of the body’s systems.

Walking towards health
The effects of technology may make our life easier, but not necessarily better. We challenge you to take a walk outside daily with your family. Enjoy the fresh air, feel the energising sun and spend quality time with your loved ones.

Believe it not, if you sell the merits of walking to your children, they will cherish the time with you. Most importantly, you are setting your children up for a healthy future. Minimise the modern day risks of prolonged sitting with regular, low intensity movement and you will age gracefully!

Craig Heslop is the founder and coach of Tribal Fitness. Visit for activities that your children can partake in.

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