In Western society, a day of prolonged sitting is completely normal. Most of us work in sedentary jobs that require long days sitting at a desk. When we get home, we may relax in front of the TV, read a book, or take a nap. The results of a new study suggest that prolonged sitting is harmful. Fortunately, a device as simple as everyday smart watches could undo all of those negative effects.
What’s the problem with prolonged sitting?
Unfortunately, this is one of those areas of medicine where we can’t be sure why the harmful action causes harm. At the more obvious end of the scale, sitting around all day means you’re not burning energy. As you may have guessed, this also means you’re more likely to encounter obesity.
If you want to dig into the juicier scientific side of things, there’s evidence to suggest that prolonged sitting increases insulin resistance. Most of the time, insulin converts the energy you consume into a format your cells can use. While insulin resistance is common, exercising can reverse the problem.
Another issue is glucose tolerance, which goes hand-in-glove with insulin resistance. When your body has more glucose than it knows what to do with, you’re at a higher risk of clogged veins. Also known as atherosclerosis. Unfortunately, vascular diseases are slippery slopes you’ll struggle to reverse if they advance far enough. We all have some atherosclerosis to an extent, but if yours goes too far you’re on a one-way track to seriously harmful cardiac problems.
And, finally, that excess glucose may also make its way to your liver in the form of fat. While the primary cause of fatty liver disease was once alcohol, today it’s bad diets. As one of the organs that champions detoxing your body (without any crazy fad diets helping it along), you can’t afford to harm your liver.
What does the latest study say about prolonged sitting?
This latest piece of research comes all the way from New Zealand, where Dr. Meredith Price leads the team at Otago University. It’s assessed 44 existing studies, which means there’s plenty of data to support its conclusions. In a nutshell, Price and her team have found that sitting for long periods of time, especially following meals, increases your risk of the adverse health events detailed above. But, on a more promising note, it only takes a little light activity every 30 minutes to offset potential harms.
Interestingly, any conscious effort to engage in physical activity in the 9 hours following your meal reduces your risk of insulin resistance and glucose tolerance. So, if you like a heavy breakfast and lunch, you have lots of chances throughout the day to treat your heart and liver with kindness.
Where do smart watches factor into this?
If you’re going to think about this honestly, there’s only a small chance that you will remind yourself to move every 30 minutes. Although setting an alarm on your phone is an option, that requires stamina too.
In contrast, smart watches that utilize health apps often prompt you to move when you’re not doing enough. As many smart watches track steps, you can set a goal and wait for the buzz that encourages you to get your caboose in gear. Not only are you taking on Dr. Price’s advice, you’re making it more likely that you’ll use it to your benefit.