If you are reading this, chances are you’re sitting down. Whether working at a desk, relaxing on the couch or commuting by car or public transit, the majority of us sit for the better part of our day. All of that sitting could have some not-so-great effects on our long-term health.
We have become increasingly more sedentary over the past few decades. Much of this prolonged sitting comes from changes in occupation. Our jobs are very different now than they were once before (how many blacksmiths do you know?). Most people spend around a third of their workday sitting at a desk working on the computer. We spend much of our free time sitting while looking at screens, too.
Sitting too much isn’t good for our arteries. Artery health is important as we age because it can help us predict the odds of having a serious medical issue such as a heart attack or stroke. We should try to keep our arteries as healthy as we can for as long as possible.
Some people try to limit their hours sitting by using standing desks, but realistically, not everyone can stand for long periods throughout the day either. However, there may be other ways to combat the problem. A recent study shows taking the antioxidant vitamin C before sitting may protect men from the harmful effects of sitting. These beneficial effects did not occur in young women, possibly because women tend to already have higher levels of natural antioxidants due to higher levels of the hormone estrogen.
Other research has shown that women and men are likely to benefit from exercising before sitting to help maintain artery health. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology even suggests that fidgeting while sitting can help as well.
Scientists don’t fully understand why women may not benefit from vitamin C as much as men do, and the sex differences involved with sedentary behavior still aren’t clear. More research is needed in this area, but for now we should focus on reducing sitting time much as possible. And now we know to take our vitamin C, which has other health benefits as well. And, when our smartwatch tells us to get up every hour, we should listen!
Austin Hogwood is a PhD student at the University of Virginia studying exercise and vascular health with a focus on inorganic nitrate as a therapy in a variety of healthy and diseased populations. His interests also lie in the interaction of biological sex, race and menopause on vascular function and how exercise plays a role as a therapy in at-risk and understudied populations.