RVers health risk: Sitting Disease

If you're like me and the pounds have been hard to get off lately, maybe you have sitting disease.

Yes, there really is such an disease. And it's reached epidemic proportions, linked to all sorts of other ailments, the first and foremost of which is obesity.

antisitBlame it on our sedentary lifestyle. Our deskbound working days. Our computer and Internet use. TV watching. But the fact is, the average American these days sits – at a desk, in the car or RV or on a couch – nearly eight hours every day. Sitting. Planted. Not moving. A thick and growing-thicker-by-the-day body of medical research is documenting terrible health effects from all this.

I am always at the computer, blogging, updating social media, writing and answering email. But added to that is all the time I have spend driving my RV over the past couple of years. Last year, I drove 35,000 miles across North America, doing stories about the interesting people and places encountered.

Many days, I was behind the wheel 12 hours, only to stop for the night and sit right back down to edit photos and video and write a story for the blog.

You still may be laughing at the term “sitting disease.” Don't. No less an authority than the Mayo Clinic talks about it.

The experts are seriously concerned about the problem. That's because when you sit for an long periods of time – over four hours – your body literally starts to shut down at the metabolic level, according to Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri.  It gets worse. When muscles—especially the big ones meant for movement, like those in your legs—are immobile, your circulation slows and you burn fewer calories.

That would be cause enough to gain weight.

But as it turns out, sitting so long and so much does even more to those trying to lose weight and get in shape. Key fat-burning enzymes responsible for breaking down triglycerides (a type of fat) simply start switching off. Sit for a full day and those fat burners plummet by 50 percent, says James Levine,M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot.

It gets even worse. The more you sit, the less blood sugar your body uses, meaning those sugars store as fat. Medical research research shows that for every two hours spent sitting per day, your chance of getting diabetes goes up by 7 percent. Your risk for heart disease goes up, too, because enzymes that keep blood fats in check are inactive. You're also more prone to depression because with less blood flow, mood-enhacing hormones are not getting to your brain.

“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking,” says Martha Grogan, cardiologist, Mayo Clinic. Sitting for four or more hours a day has about the same adverse effect on your health as smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes every day.

Yuck.

Sitting disease even blunts the good effects of exercise. “We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting,” says another researcher, Genevieve Healy, PhD.

So, what to do about it?

Standing every hour, moving around a bit, stretching, working standing up, walking around. Those same studies show that just short little two minute standing breaks can counteract the effects of sitting in dramatic ways. Some people use stand-up desks.

So, as far as sitting disease goes,  I'm going to stand for it. Throughout the day. When I'm driving, we'll stop every hour and a half or two at the most and get up and get out of the RV and move around.

I'll let you know how it goes. And for the record, I'm standing now as I type this.





  • Thanks Mike for the heads up on the fact that there is much more going on than what would normally meet the eye. Won’t use it as an excuse but rather take advantage of the solutions provided here. While a standing desk isn’t going to happen, can definitely get up and move for a bit every hour or two throughout the day..

  • Janet Arnold

    when traveling this past summer I set my alarm for every 2 hours so I would make myself get out of the RV and do something, anything. If I saw something interesting before then I stopped early and reset the alarm. Part of the RV problem is they make the seats too darn comfortable.
    Walking to the kitchen for tea.

  • Judi Darin

    There’s no better cure for a sedentary life style than a sweet dog with big eyes, sitting at your feet, leash in mouth. Let’s go for a walk!

    • Di

      This is exactly the reason I got a dog — to get me up off my butt. Dogs need to walk and so did I.

    • Lou Drakulich

      Just got this article 2 weeks ago so I’m late to the conversation. Almost 3 years late.
      We love dogs and we walk our neighbors dogs for them when they are working but we do not have a dog ourselves.
      Respectfully, walking a dog is not the same as going for a walk. In fact, walking a dog takes away from the exercise one gets just walking. Dogs want to stop and smell (the flowers) almost constantly and, of course, a dog has other business to take care of. All of these things stop or slow your walk.
      I would not recommend a dog for anyone to get into shape.

  • Ann Seeton

    I have a standing station for my internet. I had no idea how much I sat around until I switched from a desk and chair to a desk set up to be used from a standing position. I am amazed at how tired my legs get, which tells me I changed none too soon!

  • Its already a problem for me at work. I need to retire soon.

  • If U sit to long U can develop blood clots in your legs which can travel to your heart. Heart attack!!

  • Actually they go to your lungs. Pulmonary embolus!!

  • Or a clot could go to your brain and have a stroke……

  • Just take care and stop more often and get out and walk around. No need to stop living….

  • If U stop more often U will get to see more sights and make the trip a little more leisurely. Maybe see something U have missed…

  • They can go to your brain too. I know because mine did. Just have to stop & walk around every 2-3 hrs & stay hydrated. some might need to wear compression stockings.

  • Over the last 35 years I’ve had numerous DVDs that is deep vein thrombosis often leading to pulmonary embolism which can result in deaths. In 1973 my inferior vena cava which is the main vein that runs from your legs to your lungs clamp shut so I am forced to get up every hour to two hours and move around a little bit when I Drive its pretty much every rest stop a quick walk to the bathroom and back is all I need. So you if you’re young and you’re doing 6 to 8 hours behind that wheel stop get up walk around a little bit and sit back down and drive away if you’re at your desk you can bounce your feet up and down that helps whatever you can do the improve circulation.

  • Carol Power

    Hi Mike: I look forward to your Monday blogs, you always seem to post very informative tips. One thing you mentioned about using one credit card to keep track of travels. We do the same thing, but recently we encountered something that shut us down completely. We carry two different major credit cards because from time to time you find someplace that doesn’t accept one or the other. About a month ago we talked about hitting the road but then decided to wait until things cooled off a bit (we are in Florida) good thing we did. Like you, we don’t travel with a lot of cash and rely on the credit cards. Both of our credit cards were hacked the same week, leaving us in a bad spot when the credit card companies halted their use when they detected foul play. Now we would have been hundreds of miles from home with new credit being sent to our home. Being as we were home, we certainly had choices of getting cash, but had we been on the road we would have no credit cards and no cash. I figure we would have starved to death after we ran out of diesel fuel in the middle of no where , ok maybe not that drastic, but certainly this could have posed a huge problem. The credit card hacking has become a huge thing over the past years. This is just something for everyone to keep in mind when setting out for travels far from home, you have to be ready for anything.
    Carol P.

  • Lou Drakulich

    I’m new to Roadtreking and this article just came to me in Mike’s email feed, last week (30 Jan 2017)
    so I’m a little late to the conversation.
    About every 2 hours, you need to stop and do some Yoga and/or stretching. Just 5 to 10 minutes could make all the difference.
    RVers should learn some simple Yoga and stretching moves they can do on the road. If the weather is bad, have some moves you can do inside your RV. A simple and easy Yoga warm up will do wonders.
    Of course, that is just for driving. Once you stop get out for a walk and do some elastic band resistance and/or suspension training. You can carry all you need in a small bag.

  • Milly Lopez-McCaw

    Love your blog ! Very informative ❤️