When you think about living dangerously - smoking, drinking and other risk taking behaviours may be the first things that come to mind. But if your days are anything like mine, one of your deadliest habits is one you indulge in most of your waking hours. It's sitting. Yes, sitting.
Just think for a second about how many hours a day you sit. The tally may horrify you. Most of us sit down for breakfast. We sit for our daily commute, sit down at our desks for a good eight hours and when we get home after a tiring day, we just can't wait to sit down.
We've come to the reality now that we are a nation of sitters and for, for many people, they're sitting for longer than they're actually sleeping.
Researchers at the Australian National University and Sydney University have put a figure on just how deadly sitting can be. So we followed two hundred thousand people aged forty five and over and over a three year period around five thousand of those people in the study died.
About seven percent of the deaths could be attributed to prolonged sitting. What we found was that those who sat for prolonged periods of time, were more likely to die in the three years following the survey, than those who sat for shorter periods. What about somebody who sits for more than eleven hours a day like me? So we know that of the people who sat for eleven or more hours a day, they had a forty percent increasing risk of death compared to the people who sat for fewer than four hours.
People who sat for more than eight hours a day, were at a fifteen percent greater risk of early death. And this was actually after we had accounted for things like age, smoking and as many other factors as we could think of. They may sound like frightening statistics but the really depressing thing is even if I do the recommended daily amount of exercise, it still doesn't cancel out the negative effects of sitting.
But don't stop exercising. In the study, those who exercised regularly, were still at an increasing risk of early death the longer they sat but being inactive only adds to the risk. Those who didn't exercise and sat the most, fared worst of all. So what exactly is it about sitting that's so bad for you? At the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, trial participants have been taking it easy.
When we are sitting, there's no muscle contractions and, and why is that so important? Well muscle contraction helps the body's efficiency to clear blood sugar levels, blood fat levels. A high calorie meal raises blood sugar levels. In people who sit for long periods, those levels remain high for hours.
Well it's known that elevated glucose levels can lead to inflammation which if repeated on a number of days or weeks, can lead to heart disease and, and a host of other conditions such as cancer. So Andrew we'll do your break and I'll get you up on the treadmill.
But good news, breaking up sitting time can have a dramatic effect. A light two minute walk every twenty minutes is enough to lower blood glucose levels by around thirty percent.
There was no difference between doing light intensity walking or moderate intensity walking, so it doesn't appear that there's an intensity issue here, it's the physical movement that's important. What we need to start to incorporate is more movement throughout the day and an achievable way to do that is to not focus on having a seated posture throughout the day. I think the problem is that we have people just sitting throughout the day.
It sounds impractical but getting people up and moving could be a win win for business and workers.
At the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, employees are trialling activity-based working. In fact, it's the largest example of its kind in the world. Workers here don't have desks or landlines. Their day is spent roaming between chairs, standing desks and conference tables, depending on the task at hand. Big glass stairways encourage walking between floors.
Do you find that you get up more often than if you had a standard desk? Oh absolutely. I move around a lot more in this environment, for sure.
For how long would you be sitting for? Oh anything up to fifteen minutes at the most I'd say. But the new work environment wasn't designed for health.
More than anything else it was about introducing a better culture of collaboration. This way people actually bump into each other, they interact and they innovate more. It just sort of gets them up and about and thinking.
It also saves on operating costs and waste.
We're using half the energy, we're using less than half of the paper that we did before plus hopefully you, you know a better healthy outcome.
Once we talk about this and highlight the potential hazards, many people are quite reflective on, on their own lives. I'm more conscious of prolonged periods of sitting now than I ever was.
As for me, I'm trying hard every day to kick my sitting habit and when there's no seat left on the train, I smile and consider myself lucky.