The Gustavian Weekly

Please stand up while reading

By Renne Hoppe Asst. Sports & Fitness Editor | November 9, 2012 | Sports & Fitness

While you read this article, do me a favor. Stand up. Although most students associate eating junk food and lack of exercise with poor health, extended periods of sitting are just as detrimental.

According to Alexandra Sifferlin’s article, “Why Prolonged Sitting is Bad for Your Health,” adults who sit for 11 or more hours per day have a 40 percent increased risk of dying in the next three years than those who sit for fewer than four hours per day. Physically inactive people who reported sitting during much of their free time had double the risk of dying within three years when compared to active people who reported rarely sitting throughout the day.

In a Huffington Post article, “Sitting at Work: Why it’s Dangerous and What you Can Do,” it is reported that sitting for long periods throughout the day contributes to a person’s risk of metabolic syndrome, heart attack risk, stroke risk and overall death risk.

Unfortunately, sitting has become a dominant feature of many lifestyles in the United States. The same Huffington Post article reported: “The average adult sits for 90 percent of their leisure time.”

In Maria Masters’ article, “Why your desk job is slowly killing you,” she discusses the ways in which the human body is affected by sitting. One of her sources, Physical Therapist Bill Hartman, stated, “Your body adapts to what you do most often. So if you sit in a chair all day, you’ll essentially become better adapted to sitting in a chair. The trouble is, that makes you less adept at standing, walking, running, and jumping, all of which a truly healthy human should be able to do with proficiency.”

When looking at this from a student’s perspective, finding time to get up and be active can be tough. On average, out of the 24 hours in a day, students tend to sleep between 6 and 8 hours every night. That means that students have about 17 hours open for classes, homework, sports, clubs, socializing and other activities. If you’re as involved as the average Gustie, chances are those hours fill up quickly.

In order to negate all of the unhealthy consequences that come along with sitting, students should try to take frequent breaks. Anything from doing a couple jumping jacks to walking to the Courtyard to grab a cup of coffee are excellent options. The majority of health experts recommend hitting a 50:50 ratio when it comes to sitting and standing.  Additionally, sitting in a rocking chair or on an exercise ball can be beneficial because it facilitates more movement than a stationary chair.

In maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to remember that every little decision counts towards counteracting the effects of sitting. For example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking into town instead of driving, walking down the hall to talk to a friend instead of texting them or spending some time outside instead of on Facebook are all easy ways that students can make their busy lives more physically active.

Being that students cannot always find time to take frequent breaks while studying and doing homework, sitting with proper posture is another way to make sitting a little less unhealthy.

According to The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, proper posture includes sitting as far back in the chair as possible, keeping both feet on the ground, even weight distribution on both hips, and both knees at 90-degree angles. This promotes spine alignment and engages muscles that would otherwise be neglected with poor posture.

By taking frequent breaks while doing homework or studying, remembering to be active whenever possible and sitting with proper posture, students can ensure that they minimize the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Although homework is not always avoidable, unhealthy habits are and should be a priority now, so they don’t become a medical bill later.

1 Comment

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  1. Gabrielle Shultis says:

    Great article–all of the recent reports on the negative effects of prolonged sitting truly are shocking! And it seems that even if I exercise daily, it doesn’t really matter since the majority of my day is still spent on my bottom. I recently came across another article that mentioned how stretch break software programs have been developed that remind students and office workers who sit on their computers for extended periods of time to take hourly stretch breaks. I downloaded one program ( and love how a video pops up to guide me through a series of stretches! I still try to get up and walk around as much as possible (and I actually did stand up to read this article!), but programs like this one have definitely helped me to incorporate a little more movement into my day!