WORLD HEART DAY: Prolonged sitting as dangerous for heart as smoking
29 Sep 2015 - 0:00
By Rajat Arora
Have you ever considered how much you sit during a day while driving to work in the morning or during the eight-hour-a-day desk job or later, back home, unwinding on the couch in front of the television until you have your supper and hit the sack?
Of course, not to mention the dependence on emails and cellphone apps which help you to get your work done without having to go to the spot. Advancement of technology -- be it direct-deposit pay checks, online shopping and even the groceries that are now a click away -- were unthinkable a decade or two back.
What we seem to have forgotten is that any time you get the blood pumping and moving, it stimulates organs to do things that are healthier.
A study quoted by a British newspaper states that for each hour a day that an adult spends sitting down during their lifetime, the likelihood of developing heart disease goes up by 14 percent.
Sitting could be as bad as smoking. And if you are involved in a job that requires you to sit for a prolonged period of time, then beware, you may be prone to cardiac ailments. In fact, inactivity is the fourth biggest killer of adults, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
There have been several clinical records that have proved that sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to the human body. It results in obesity and has been cited as one of the main reasons for cancer as well. This is because a sedentary body goes into a storage mode and stops functioning as effectively as it should.
For women over 30 years of age, being a couch potato increases risk of heart-related problems as compared to those smoking or carrying extra weight. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health conducted by University of Queensland has shown that sitting for hours and being inactive has been the main cause for cardiac issues among women.
Most often, people fail to realise that only daily gym sessions aren't sufficient to undo the damage caused by sitting for several hours. Scientists from the Medical College of Wisconsin tracked levels of activity of 2,031 adults whose average age was 50. They compared the number of hours each participant spent sitting down each day with the levels of deposits in blood vessels that act as signal for heart disease.
When we sit for long periods of time, enzyme changes occur in our muscles that can lead to increased blood sugar levels. The effects happen very quickly and regular exercise won't fully protect you.
Hence, it is recommended that you get up once an hour from your desk, even if it is just to walk around briefly or go to the bathroom. Some people have even started using treadmill desks at work -- anything that contracts our muscles and gets blood flowing. It dampens down inflammation and cuts down the risk of depositing plaque in the coronary arteries.
While too much sitting is just as dangerous as smoking -- and 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day is not enough to reverse the effects, the good news is that a mere five minutes of movement every hour prevents health dangers.
The moral: Take a walk during lunch or talking on the phone, take the stairs instead of the elevator and use a pedometer to track your daily steps. If you have a sedentary job, do not go home and sit in front of the TV for hours in the night.
(Rajat Arora is an Interventional Cardiologist and Medical Director at Yashoda Hospitals in Delhi)