Students advised to move with studies showing excessive sitting is linked to shorter lifespans
College students spend hours of their day sitting in classes. But Mathieu Lentine, a professor of Functional Human Anatomy in the Department of Exercise Science and Sports Studies, is cautioning students about the effects of sitting for hours on end.
Sitting for prolonged periods decreases brain function and can be detrimental to your health, he said.
“Aside from straining the muscles, joints and ligaments in your back and neck, prolonged sitting increases the pressure through the discs between the bones of your spine, increasing their potential for injury," he said via email. "Prolonged sitting also keeps some muscles short and tightened, while other become stretched and weakened."
Then, when the person uses these muscles in a normal way, the body has a hard time using them properly, which Lentine said also increases the incidence of injury.
"It is not just the musculoskeletal system that is involved. A recent meta-analysis from the Annals of Internal Medicine found increased incidence of disease like cardiovascular, diabetes and cancer with lower levels of physical activity,” he said.
Aria Fairman, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, believes students should balance out the amount of time they sit with physical activity and take advantage of opportunities to stay fit at the University.
“I definitely don’t feel good if I’m sitting down for most of the day. There are plenty of activities on campus that students can engage in. I, myself, do capoeira, a martial art form, twice a week," she said. "If students walk to classes, they will be able to exercise and balance out the time they spend sitting down.”
Lentine said most people actually sit longer as they take on more responsibilities.
“Think about your typical day as a student. Sitting waiting for the bus, on the bus, in multiple classes (and) at the computer labs/at home relaxing on the couch or studying. Prolonged sitting is not just being in class but a combination of all sitting done in a day,” he said
Ben Weise, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, said he spends a lot of time doing physical activity to compensate for the amount of time he sits in class.
“I don’t have time to actually go to the gym, but I’m in marching band which is pretty physically demanding as it is," he said. "I definitely don’t think college students should just be sitting around all day. I don’t know what’s going through their heads because I can’t sit for long periods of time, but they should go out more and do more physical activity."
Lentine said students have the greatest potential to make positive and sustainable changes to how active they are. Forming the habits to be active during college is important, as it will become more challenging to try to establish those habits after graduating.
Students should make a conscious effort to be active by walking more and using the stairs whenever possible, Lentine said. A 2012 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that the longer people remain inactive, the greater the chances of having a shortened lifespan.
"There is little you can do about sitting in classes, but you can make an effort between them," he said.
"When you can control how you are sitting (studying, relaxing, etc.) make sure you get up frequently several times per hour," he said.