As I sit here on my 5th ..6th ..7th .. (what day are we on?) day of marathon writing, trying to meet an impossible February 1st deadline, I can’t help but think about some recent studies and articles on the dangers inherent in our sedentary lifestyles. Then today, a fabulous video on the subject crossed my path, so I want to share that with you. But first, some background.
For decades doctors have studied the positive effects of activity. By now we should all know that if you exercise more, you’ll be more healthy — physically and mentally. I don’t even need to give you links for that. But what if you’re pretty happy with how you look and feel? Does that get you out of exercising?
To find that out, someone had to study the problem from the opposite viewpoint– how does being sedentary affect health? Well, the folks over at Obesity Panacea have been talking about the whole field of sedentary physiology for some time. Check them out for a run down of what science knows about that. But meanwhile, I’ll jump straight to the spoiler:
Being sedentary is killing us.
Alright, that’s dramatic, but really, our bodies aren’t meant to sit in our chairs, recline on our couches, and sleep in our beds for 12..15…23 hours a day. The fact is, the longer we sit, the sooner we die.
Now that first study targeted television-watchers, a cohort that doesn’t include me. But those of us who sit at our computers all day are no better off. Sitting is sitting, no matter what you’re doing or how much you spent on your ergonomic office chair.
So, what to do? Well, some people have resorted to using standing desks but, as any cashier or surgeon will tell you, standing in one place all day long isn’t good for you either. Alex Hutchinson of SweatScience provides some straight-talk on standing desks in a recent Globe and Mail Jockology column.
What you don’t need to do is resort to fancy gadgets or pricy gym memberships you’ll never get your money’s worth from. No, there’s an easier answer:
To gain a measurable health and lifespan improvement over sitting, just get up and walk around.
And the operative term there is “get up.” Sitting on an exercise ball, doing curls or butt-squeezes from your chair, lying on your back stretching — this is not getting up.
So, that’s the cure. What’s the dose? It turns out, only thirty minutes a day out of your chair (or bed or couch or car) is enough to measurably reduce the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Everything after that is certainly a bonus (and recommended!), but incremental in its overall health gains. That first step is really the one that matters.
Now, since I’m short on time (remember that deadline I mentioned?).. I’m going to let Dr. Mike Evans talk to you about the 30 minutes and what effect is will have on your health.
Watch it while you’re walking around and you’re 9 minutes into your 30. Now go!
Patel, A., Bernstein, L., Deka, A., Feigelson, H., Campbell, P., Gapstur, S., Colditz, G., & Thun, M. (2010). Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults American Journal of Epidemiology, 172 (4), 419-429 DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwq155
Veerman, J., Healy, G., Cobiac, L., Vos, T., Winkler, E., Owen, N., & Dunstan, D. (2011). Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis British Journal of Sports Medicine DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.2011.085662