Can Sitting Too Much Affect Your Health? Advice for Travelers

Up to 70% of Americans spend six or more hours sitting every day. This is probably unsurprising: between meals, the office, traveling in cars, and relaxing after work, sitting takes up a large portion of our days. The problem, however, is that sitting, no matter how comfortable can be highly detrimental to your health.

Real Consequences Of “Sitting Disease”

The Mayo Clinic and other health experts refer to the collective negative effects of prolonged sitting as “sitting disease.” Many of us believe that sitting is innocuous, but sitting disease can affect the body in terrible ways. Sedentary lifestyles are associated with heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer, among other negative outcomes. In fact, people who sit for less than three hours a day have, on average, a life expectancy of two years longer than those who sit for longer.

Travelers More At Risk

Travelers are especially prone to sitting disease and other sitting-related health problems, because they spend so much time sitting: on planes, in cars, or riding trains, travelers often get where they need to go by sitting. People who spend long periods of time sitting on airplanes are also at risk for “economy class syndrome”: the formation of blood clots in the legs. These clots can travel to the lungs, causing pulmonary embolisms.

What Can You Do?

As a traveler, there are steps you can take to combat the problems caused by sitting.

In the vehicle: Be sure to stretch your legs and move around often. Take periodic walks around the plane if travelling by air. If traveling by car (or a similar mode of transport), be sure to change your sitting position often. The key is to move your legs around to avoid blood clots.

Outside the vehicle: If you’re spending a lot of time sitting in cars or on planes, take advantage of the time that you are outside of these vehicles. Don’t sit in between flights or while waiting for a car. Stand up and walk around.

During the workday: Business travelers may also want to invest in portable standing desks. These desks can turn any work surface into a standing desk, which will allow you to stand while you work. Save the sitting for the transportation itself: while in the hotel, in meetings, or at conferences, use your standing desk.

Make Exercise In Any Form A Priority

Ultimately, activity is the key to avoiding sitting disease. Move around as much as possible. Take every chance that you get to exercise, no matter where you are. Use stairs instead of elevators. There are many ways to stay active while traveling – don’t make any excuses for yourself.

Sitting disease is a real condition that affects the majority of Americans and can have serious consequences for your health. Because travelers are particularly prone to sitting disease, it is important to actively seek out ways to keep your body moving to avoid blood clots. Prioritize exercise and light activity: even something as simple as walking up the aisles of the plane or asking your chauffeur for a short pit stop can help keep you healthy.