No, but both are working against your health. According to studies that used device-based measures of sedentary behaviors, adults typically spend 9 hours per day (!) sitting.
A combination of a rising percentage of our population diagnosed as being either overweight or obese, an increase in daily screen time, a growth in online shopping and other convenient methods which keep us less active, makes this one definitely a hot topic.
How Much Sitting Is Too Much?
More than 8 hrs a day are definitely not good for you. Too much sitting is considered a form of inactivity, since it does not take much effort and lowers your metabolic demand.
Compared with lower volumes of sitting (e.g., < 4 hours/day), high volumes of sitting (e.g., > 8 hours/day) have been found to be associated with adverse health outcomes.
What Do We Know?
Here a few examples of areas which are affected by prolonged sitting.
1) Sitting Is Hard On Your Brain
‘Exposure to acute prolonged sitting reportedly leads to decreased cerebral blood flow.’
Wow, which means your brain does not get enough oxygen and is less stimulated! You are at an increased risk to lower your cognitive functioning and develop neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
2) Sitting and Screen Time Are Hard On Your Eyes
‘Certain life-style modalities, including physical inactivity, sedentary behaviors, and prolonged screen time increase the prevalence of dry eye disease‘.
Those who sit longer and work in front of screens are more likely to harm their eyes compared to those who regularly move around and restrict their screen times.
3) Sitting Is Hard On Your Joints
‘Results indicated that long sitting times were associated with exhaustion during the working day, and musculoskeletal disorder symptoms in the shoulders, lowerback, and knees.’
Joint pain can have causes that aren’t due to underlying disease. Examples include lack of use!
Not moving over a longer time period makes you especially more vulnerable to lower back pain. Different sitting strategies and the onset of back pain were compared: Pain developers did not sit differently than non-pain developers, although they did appear to move less. Due to the reduced blood flow during prolonged rest, joints tend to get stiffer – which can be painful!
Will Breaking It Up Help?
Sometimes we can not avoid prolonged sitting. But breaking up longer periods of inactivity with physical activity bouts prevents adverse health outcomes.
How Many Breaks Do I Need?
8 minute breaks every 2 hours are ideal.
It has been reported that a decline in blood flow could be prevented with longer duration walking breaks.
Shorter, more frequent breaks, eg. 2 min every 30 min, were better than no break, but could not counteract the sitting-induced decreases in blood flow. Similar to fidgeting or calf raises while sitting – they bring some release to your stiff joints and help to release tension, but they are not enough to increase the blood flow. To activate your metabolism, you will need to get up and move for more than five minutes continuously.
Sitting has frequently been equated with smoking, with some sources even suggesting that smoking is safer than sitting. Well, I do not agree with this theory, since the health damage they are resulting in are hard to compare. Besides the additional addictive aspect of nicotine.
But if we compare adjustable lifestyle factors affecting health issues and diseases, both choices are definitely putting you at a higher risk!
Lots of research was done in the last years to find strategies to fight physical inactivity. One of them is to interrupt your prolonged sitting with >8 min walking breaks!
Your brain, eyes and joints will thank you ;o)