The huge energy leak called ‘sitting’
Sports and exercise are certainly important, but today I want to talk about the energy leak called ‘sitting’. Even if
you have a profession where you walk a lot every day, I advise you to read on. Because maybe you sit quietly in front of the television or your computer for three hours in the evening?
Did you know that sitting still in front of your television for three hours may be just as harmful as eight hours of desk work? This is because people in the office still move to get coffee, visit the toilet or a colleague, and some stand up when they call. Smart!
American physician James Levine coined the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’. He said: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking and more treacherous than skydiving. We are killing ourselves.”
Do you sit at the office all day AND often spend 3 hours in front of the television in the evening? Then I have good news for you! Then there is an incredible amount of profit to be made if you are looking for more energy! Sitting still is a huge energy leak.
Sitting for a long time shortens your life and makes you sick
An Australian study (1) of 222,000 over-45s showed that there were 40% more deaths among people who sat for at least 11 hours a day. The lowest death rate was found in the group that sat for less than four hours a day.
A lot of research shows that sitting a lot leads to a more than 2 times higher risk of diabetes and 2.5 times greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Cancer also increases with a sedentary lifestyle. These risks were not found to decrease significantly in people who went to the gym twice a week. How is this possible? There are several causes.
Going to the gym twice a week is not enough to compensate for a sedentary job.
This has to do with the most underrated organ in your body: your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is similar to your blood vessel system and therefore runs throughout your body. It is so important that it is even twice the size of your circulatory system: no less than 200,000 km long!
Your lymphatic system is an essential part of your immune system and ensures the removal of bacteria, viruses, used hormones, remnants of (cancer) cells, and all kinds of toxic substances that must be removed from your body. You can think of it as your body’s sewage system. How do you prevent blockage in your sewer system?
Movement is your lymphatic system’s only pump
A properly functioning lymphatic system will prevent autoimmune diseases. Did you know that women are up to 8 times more likely to be affected by autoimmune diseases than men?! So it is especially important for women to keep the lymphatic system active. How do we do that?
Women are 8 times more likely to be affected by autoimmune diseases than men. Movement is especially important for them.
The circulatory system in your body has a pump: your heart. Your heart beats 100,000 times a day to keep your blood circulating. Your lymphatic system does not have a pump. The only thing that keeps lymph fluid flowing through your body is exercise! If you sit still for more than an hour, your body will “lock” as it were and the smooth flow of your lymph fluid through the 200,000 kilometers of lymphatic vessels in your body stops.
Do you ever sit still for three hours or more in a row?
That’s why you can’t compensate for long sitting with two hours of exercise a week, although it is of course much better than not going to the gym! Let me be clear about that. Your lymphatic system needs constant movement to stay active.
I always think about those glass ball toys that you have to shake to make it ‘snow’. If you sit still for a long time, it no longer ‘snows’. This picture in my head helps me to keep moving.
Movement is the pump of your lymphatic system
This also explains why three hours of watching television or sitting in front of your computer is just as bad as eight hours of desk work. Thanks to the remote control, people in front of the television are often even more immobile than in the office and we all know that the hours fly by when we are doing something interesting at our computer.
For a higher energy level, both in the short and the long term, you need a well-functioning lymphatic system.
Your lymphatic system needs you. Every hour.
Move every hour for at least a few minutes
Do you now understand how important it is to get moving every hour? To get up from your chair or couch at least every hour (preferably every half hour) and walk? At the office but also when you’re sitting in front of the television? I would prefer to let you jump on a trampoline for a minute because that will make your lymphatic system very happy! A quick walk up a few stairs is also fine. Marching in place is also okay. Jumping up and down here is even better.
Get up and move. Jump up and down a few times. Shrug your shoulders a few times and do some knee bends. In short: visualize your 200,000 km of lymphatic system and ensure that your sewage system does not get clogged. Of course I understand that this is not always possible. If you’re in the cinema or on a plane it gets longer than an hour. Let’s just say exceptions prove the rule.
Just this (because this is even better)
If you sit a lot (at least 8 hours a day) then a few minutes of exercise every hour is good for your lymphatic system, but your body needs more exercise than that! Sitting a lot really causes irreparable damage to your body and your brain.
Fortunately, research shows that you can reasonably compensate for this with at least an hour of walking or cycling a day at a brisk pace. An hour of exercise or intensive yoga is also fine. In this way you retain the muscles you need to keep your blood glucose level stable and to combat insulin resistance.
But every day. Do you think that’s a lot? Then there is only one thing to do: make sure you sit less.
Remember that sitting a lot is not only bad for your body but also for your brain.
Provide a sit-stand desk if you sit a lot
Do you fall into the category of VDU workers? Research shows that you often sit 11 hours a day on average. The average Dutch person sits 7 hours a day.
In Denmark, all employers who make people sit for long periods are obliged to provide their employees with a sit-stand desk. Unfortunately not (yet) in the Netherlands. Therefore, make sure you have a sit-stand desk yourself. It takes some getting used to working standing up, but I wouldn’t want it any other way now and I hear it from many people: you are much more creative and productive when you are standing working!
The best thing is actually a treadmill under your desk because standing still for a long time is frankly not ideal. I bought a desk bike myself to alternate sitting, cycling and standing. And there’s a trampoline next to my desk.
The numbers don’t lie
The cause of low back pain is often sitting for too long. You can tell your employer that you suffer from low back pain (even if you don’t, I won’t reveal it) and ask for a sit-stand desk. I promise it will give you more energy than you think possible right now.
If you need the information to convince your employer, show him/her this video. The numbers surrounding sitting still for long periods of time for your health are shocking.
Do you like freedom? Sitting is addictive. There goes your freedom.
Sitting is just as addictive as smoking. It’s comfortable and that’s the problem. If you sit a lot, try to move a little more every day. Walking, cycling, climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator, parking your car further from the entrance of your destination. Get a dog, buy a trampoline or find a buddy to go to the gym with. I promise it will give you more energy in the short term. Once you experience this, it gets easier. Because even a high level of energy is addictive!
A high level of energy is also addictive: you want more and more of it.