In the past few years there has been renewed focus on the negative impact long periods of sitting can have on our health and wellbeing. It has been linked to numerous chronic conditions and some types of cancers. And because physical activity plays such a critical role in long-term healthy weight management, you can imagine that excessive sitting isn’t doing your body mass index and body fat percentage any favors. But it’s also what we do during those periods of sitting that adds fuel to the fire.
1. Watching TV
Maybe the guiltiest culprit of extreme sitting is TV-watching. It may have started back in the 80s with the advent of “marathons” where networks would show multiple episodes of a series back-to-back. Of course that led to today’s on-demand “binge-watching,” enabled by the release of all episodes of a TV series simultaneously. Thanks NetFlix.
On top of the stagnation your body experiences during these TV marathons or binges, your brain takes a hit too, which affects your eating behavior.
First, research has found that if you eat while watching television, your distracted mind loses track of how much you’ve consumed, usually leading to overeating. Secondly, if you view advertisements during the programs for fatty, sugary or generally unhealthy foods, it has been found that they do have the power to trigger hunger. If that bag of chips is nearby, forget about it. You’re a sitting duck. As one researcher from a Yale study on the subject matter stated: According to researchers, “From only a half hour of television viewing a day, the increase in snacking caused by food advertising would lead to a weight gain of nearly 10 pounds a year, unless mitigated by reduced consumption of other foods or increased physical activity.”
One last thought on TV watching…You may think you’ve escaped the effect of food advertising by paying for a commercial-free online streaming subscription. Guess what? Advertisers have figured that out and are increasingly paying for placement within the program.
2. Playing Video Games
Most of the research here has focused on children and teens, but we all know those kids at heart who still enjoy battling it out on screen. While there is more interaction with video games than passive television viewing, similar effects on the brain take place when it comes to eating. A small study in Denmark on the effects of video game playing on eating showed that calorie consumption increased among video-playing participants, regardless of hunger levels. In addition, sneaky advertisers haven’t kept out of the video game arena. With as popular and lucrative as video game playing is, they’ve found a way to integrate their messages either through online banners or within games themselves.
3. Working At The Computer
In the digital age, many workers find themselves chained to their computers all day long. Standing desks have become very popular, but the majority of people still use the good old-fashioned office chair to tap away at the keyboard. And when the workday ends, that doesn’t mean the work ends. Sitting in front of the computer screen into the nighttime hours to catch up on projects and answer emails is more common today than in the past. And to break the monotony a kitten video might be watched here and there. As delightful as those may be, they’re still sitting in front of the computer…
Okay, so what can we do to counter all of the negative effects of sitting? Well, we have a very scientific recommendation for you. It goes something like this…
Turn off your devices, stand up, and move around.
Seriously, that’s it. You should plan to stand up and move every 30-45 minutes to reduce the health risks of excessive sitting and weight gain. Just take a quick walk, climb a flight of stairs or stretch in place for 10 minutes. Of course adding 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise to your day is recommended for successful weight management, but at a minimum just take some steps to get yourself up and out of the sitting position. If there is a silver lining in the modern digital age, it’s that your smart devices will let you know where to pick up when you return!