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The Link Between Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity, and Prolonged Sitting

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If your job has you sitting for extended periods of time, your risk for certain types of cancers increases exponentially. In a 2014 study, researchers looked at the data from 43 previous studies involving 70,000 cases of cancer to confirm or deny the link between cancer and sitting.

Cancer

What they found was an increased risk in only certain types of cancers, namely lung, colon and endometrial (uterine), caused from sitting too long. For example, the risk of getting colon cancer increased 24% for those sitting most. However, the risk for other common cancers, such as breast, ovarian, testicular, prostrate, stomach, esophagus, kidney and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, were not increased.

There was even a marked difference in risk for a specific cancer between sitting and sitting watching TV. For every two-hour increase in watching TV, there was a 10% increase of risk for endometrial cancer in women; an 8 % increased risk for colon cancer in both men and women. The risk peaked out at 54% for those glued to the TV the most.

As for the increased risk of colon cancer, researchers know sustained high levels of blood sugar and insulin increases the risk. Eating lunch at your desk is not a healthy thing to do as it spikes your blood sugar level. They also know that walking after a meal lower the levels of both blood sugar and insulin faster, so try to walk for 15-minutes after eating and before going back and sitting at your desk.

Another point to be made is sitting at a desk is not the only sitting job that involves an increased risk of cancer. Long haul truck drivers are subject to the same increased risk, and in fact more so, as they also tend to eat unhealthy meals while doing their jobs. Local delivery drivers have a lower risk as they are up and moving more and sitting less during their work day, plus they can take a healthy lunch to work.

As far as the increased risk for endometrial cancer in women, it differed significantly according to the type of sitting, ranging from 32% for those just sitting, to 66% for those sitting while watching TV. The other two “sitting cancers” – lung and colon are still being studied to see if there is a connection between just sitting and sitting while watching TV.

Why the marked difference between the two types of sitting? Researchers aren’t sure, but they think it could be tied to an increase of eating unhealthy snacks and drinks while seated watching TV.

The other interesting point from the research is that by exercising either before or after work did not lower the risk. Getting up and moving for five minutes out of each hour provided the most decrease in risk.

Diabetes

Do you know the average person spends 50% to 70% of their day sitting – between sitting at a desk, in front of a computer, driving or watching TV? And did you also know it is taking a toll on your health?

Multiple studies show the same thing – prolonged sitting increases your risk of heart disease, certain types of cancers, kidney disease and diabetes. For those who sit the longest each day, the risk for diabetes was twice as great as for those who sat the least.

Researchers think the increased risk is due to the fact that when sitting, especially after eating a meal, your blood sugar level stays elevated longer than it would if you were up and moving. This happens due to the change in enzyme levels within the muscles when you sit for long periods of time. They are not requiring as much energy, so your blood sugar level stays higher for a longer period of time. And if you are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes anyway, due to lower levels of insulin or insulin resistance, then a job requiring you to sit could be just the thing to trigger Type 2 diabetes.

In the past, we were told to exercise to offset the effects of sitting, but new research found it did not significantly lower the risk. What did lower the risk the most was getting up and moving around 2 minutes for each 30 minutes of sitting. If you spend a lot of time watching TV, then get up during commercials.

So if exercising before or after work doesn’t work, what can you do to lessen the effects of prolonged sitting? Sit less!

It is not as hard as you think, even if you have a job that keeps you tied to a desk all day long. Use these tips to get yourself up and moving:

1. If you get lost in your work, set an alarm on your computer to remind you to get up and walk around.
2. Instead of sending an email to a college in the same building, personally walk over and deliver your message.
3. Use a smaller glass for water. It will require you to get up more often and refill it.
4. If you have a choice, choose a standing desk or better yet one with a walking treadmill.

Don’t let your job affect your health. Get up and get moving?

Obesity

Fact: Sitting down for long periods of time shortens your life span. Startling isn’t it? Various studies prove it’s true. Jobs or hobbies that require you to sit for extended periods of time also significantly increase your risk of:
* Cancer
* Heart Disease
* Diabetes
* Metabolic Syndrome
* And yes, obesity

For the purpose of this article we are going to look at just obesity. One obvious reason sitting increases your waistline is over time you are burning fewer calories, but probably are not consuming fewer; as a matter-of-fact, you are probably consuming more calories – especially if you’re sitting time is watching TV. There is something about watching TV and eating (and most likely unhealthy foods) that seem to go together.

But one little known fact as to why you are putting on weight is that sitting makes the fat cells in your buttocks increase in size; more so than the fat cells in other parts of your body. It is as if your body is trying to create a cushion between you and what you are sitting on.

And being obese also raises your risk of cancer. So is there a tie-in between and increased risk of certain cancers and being obese from sitting? Researchers don’t know for sure, but what they do know is obesity increases the risk of colon cancer, which is also one of the cancers increased by extended sitting.

However, obesity also increases the risk of other cancers not affected by prolonged sitting, such as esophagus, kidney, breast and pancreas. More research is need to establish a definite link between obesity and colon cancer, but it does look suspicious at this point.

So what can you do to lessen your risk of becoming obese from sitting? In a nutshell, watch what you eat and sit less!

More specifically, watch the number and kind of calories you consume. Fresh fruits and vegetables have the lowest number of calories, yet still fill you up. Some are even “negative” foods meaning it takes more calories for your body to process them than what they contain.

Watch what you drink. Sodas and coffees, like lattes and cappuccinos, are loaded with sugar. And diet sodas are not good for you either. Stick to drinking water when you can and supplement it with a couple cups of black coffee or ice tea (both with no sugar).
Stand more and sit less. Some good choices to get in more time moving include:
* If you have a choice in furnishing your office, choose a standing desk or one with a walking treadmill.
* When talking on the phone, stand or walk (to the extent the cord will let you) throughout the conversation.
* After eating lunch, go for a 15-minute walk outside.
* Hand deliver a message to a colleague instead of emailing it.

While you can’t totally eliminate sitting while doing your job (nor do you have to), there are many ways to cut down the amount of time you spend sitting and spend more time moving. Couple that with an awareness of what you are eating, and you can stave off the dreaded weight gain that eventually leads to obesity and associated health issues that comes with it.

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