Campus LifeNewsResearch

U of A professor publishes article on dangers of sitting for extended periods of time

The effects of sitting for long periods of time cannot be reversed by exercising later on.

Research conducted by a University of Alberta professor has highlighted the dangers associated with sitting for extended periods of time.

Billy Strean, a professor in the faculty of kinesiology, sport, and recreation at the U of A, recently wrote an article talking about the negative health effects of sitting, while implementing tips to encourage people to shorten the time they spend seated. 

“[If you’re sitting for extended periods of time] you are at [an] increased risk for things like obesity, back and neck pain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, deep vein thrombosis, Alzheimer’s, dementia, anxiety, depression, and early mortality,” Strean said.

According to Strean, negative health effects on the human body caused by sitting for extended periods of time cannot be reversed by exercising later on. He compared this to the negative health effects caused by smoking. Strean explained the negative health effects caused by smoking and sitting cannot be canceled out by the positive health benefits of exercising. 

“Even though you’re exercising — and there are benefits of exercising — there’s still harm from long periods of sitting,” he said. 

When asked if there was harm associated with the periods of inactivity while sleeping in comparison to sitting down, Strean explained that sleep is necessary for humans to be healthy since it is restorative in nature. Meanwhile, the sedentary nature of prolonged sitting has a damaging effect on human health. Strean also mentioned that standing in place for extended periods of time is harmful as well, as the human body is designed to move. 

“If you’re moving, more of your systems are going to work the way they’re supposed to,” he said. 

According to Strean, being able to move around all day is what the human body has been built to accommodate over long generations of evolution. Humans spending long hours sitting at a computer screen is a stationary behaviour that has happened relatively recently. As such, the human body isn’t developed to adjust to this new lifestyle.

“Biologically we haven’t changed that much in a couple of generations, but we’ve dramatically changed what life looks like,” Strean explained. “If we want to be well, we need to recognize that it just doesn’t work to sit for these really long periods of time.”

When asked if he had words of encouragement to inspire people to spend less time sitting, Strean encouraged students to create opportunities for themselves to move around. He recommended students set a reminder to remind themselves to move around if they are going to be sitting for long periods. 

“If you’re studying or reading, it’s as simple as if every time you sit down, you set a timer for 20 minutes or 30 minutes,” Strean advised. “Then you just get in the habit of it and then you don’t think about it. It starts to become what you routinely do.”

Strean additionally suggested that professors at the U of A help facilitate these movements in their lectures since a single student might feel disruptive if they were the lone person to stand up suddenly during class.

He noted a benefit when people take care of their health is that it often results in a positive uplift in their moods.

“I think one of my favorite phrases is [that] people are more likely to do what they like to do,” Strean said. “There are things we know we shouldn’t do, but we do them anyway. So the question is — how do you make it as fun or playful or enjoyable?”

So if you just give [moving around so that you’re not sitting for extended periods] a try, it’s not painful,” he concluded. “You don’t have to change your clothes or do anything really difficult. It’s just having the intention and then having a structure to stay with it.”

Related Articles

Back to top button