You have got to be Sitting Me
You may (or may not) want to sit down for this guys.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve always loved a good sitting session from a very early age. We go waaaay back. We’re talking from the time I could support my neck independently. After many years of indulging myself, I was understandably devastated to learn a few years ago that “sitting is the new smoking” and “sitting kills”. Beware of the chair? You have got to be sitting me!
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death,” professed Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, some years ago, after years of research on the adverse effects of sedentary lifestyles. The very same man invented the treadmill desk.
Standing up regularly has been shown to boost productivity, tone muscles, enhance posture, burn more calories and rev up metabolic rates. Dr. Levine (and other researchers) found evidence that sitting for prolonged periods increased the risk of developing obesity (no sit, Sherlock!), heart disease, type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes, several types of cancer (such as those of the breast and bowel) and depression.
There are many mechanisms working synergistically to gnaw away at our health when we sit for extended periods.
NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is an umbrella term for the calories burned during daily non-exercise activities such as walking, movement of any sort (e.g. reaching for something from an overhead cupboard) and fidgeting. A dearth of NEAT is obviously an important risk factor for weight gain and its consequent health problems: #NotSoNeat. A manual worker can burn upwards of 1000 calories over and above a sedentary worker over the course of a day. That’s a lotta calories over the course of a year!
La pièce de résistance is that insulin resistance increases as a direct result of prolonged periods of inactivity. This is the pre-eminent driver of type 2 (or adult-onset) diabetes. Insulin resistance has been shown to be significantly increased in those who walk fewer than 1,500 steps daily.
The mechanism behind the increased risk of chronic diseases and cancer is related to the pro-inflammatory effect of extended periods of resting on your laurels.
Furthermore, an American Heart Association advisory reported that prolonged sedentary periods are to the detriment of your heart and blood vessels even if you are regularly physically active. While regular exercise is obviously something to be encouraged for its far-reaching health benefits, studies have shown that an hour of intense exercise cannot counteract the health risks of being sedentary for the remainder of the day. In these studies, metabolic markers were measured in participants following different exercise regimes and compared. Turns out you can’t out-run a sedentary lifestyle no more than you can a bad diet. Yikes!
Before you lose all hope and decide to lie down on the job, a more recent study undertaken at the University of Sydney revealed that there is a more complex interplay of factors; it’s not all predicated on the number of continuous hours perched on your posterior: #Phew. This study considered responses from over 4800 of London men – whose average age was 44 – about their sitting behaviours.
After obesity, physical activity, and other factors contributing to developing adult-onset diabetes were taken into the frame, there was precious little evidence for a direct link between sitting and diabetes. Most of the incident cases of diabetes that transpired during the follow-up interval were closely correlated with “tv sitting”, as opposed to “work sitting”. (The “sitting kills” studies had solely studied “tv sitting”: #Doh!)
“TV time and sitting time are practically uncorrelated so we have very good reasons to believe that the health risks attributed to TV in the past are due to other factors, such as poorer mental health, snacking and exposure to unhealthy foods advertising,” reported lead author Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis.
“While these findings don’t exonerate sitting, they do suggest that there is far more at play than we previously realized when it comes to sedentary behaviors and the health risks associated with extended sitting.” All Hail to Thee Emmanuel!
Since Emmanuel the Great has not completely absolved sitting…
If your job does involve sitting on your todd for prolonged periods at a time, make a concerted effort to inject as much movement as possible into every hour of your day. For example, you could stand (and walk) while talking on the phone and walk and talk instead of sitting down for a discussion with a colleague. Failing that, you could set an hourly alert on your phone to remind you to get up out of that chair for a quick gander around the building or at least a take a stretch before sitting down again.
You might classify GP work as sedentary but I’ve been yo-yoing in and out of my chair and room every 5-10 minutes today. I feel like a run ragged rugrat: #Mondaze. Sigh. In other unrelated news, I have a pressing need to know where these sit-at-your-desk-for-several-hours-straight jobs are lurking. For research purposes of course: #AskingForAFriend. I don’t know anyone with one. The lucky bastards are hardly all dead. (Point of information: according to Forbes & Morgan McKinley, the average 35 year old will change jobs 8-10 times before they hit the ripe-old age of 42.) Seriously, any ideas? I’m not taking this lying down.
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