Even if you exercise, it may not matter if you sit too much

Griff's officeSince the late 80s, I’ve stood at my computer much of the day because of low back pain. But once that pain subsided (see this blog post on what I did), I’ve been spending more time sitting in the chair on the right than standing at my desk on the left. Bad idea. A blog post published yesterday on Scientific American’s site is startling: Can sitting too much kill you?

There is a rapidly accumulating body of evidence which suggests that prolonged sitting is very bad for our health, even for lean and otherwise physically active individuals.

… both lean and obese individuals, and even those with otherwise active lifestyles, are at increased health risk when they spend excessive amounts of time sitting down.

… sedentary time is closely associated with health risk regardless of how much physical activity you perform on a daily basis. Further, it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary. Thus, to quote researcher Marc Hamilton, sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little.

The author of the SCIAM blog post, Travis Saunders, has a 5-part series on sedentary physiology on the Obesity Panacea blog. See also: Feb 2010 NY Times, Stand Up While You Read This! by Olivia Judson;
April 2010 NY Times, Room for Debate: Is All That Sitting Really Killing Us?

This has implications in the fight against obesity and makes me wonder if those in charge of Northfield area schools (K-12, colleges) are considering the implications of this research.

See: Stand-Up Desks In College Station School Fighting Obesity

stand-up desks in school"We separated the children statistically, who were in the overweight or obese categories, which according to the CDC, is greater than the 85th percentile in weight for their age-range,” says Dr. Benden. “We looked at the children in the standing classrooms and the same types of children in the seated classrooms which are ultimately the target of this effort, and they were burning 32% more calories than their seated peers."

Dr. Benden says the stand-up adjustable workstations come with stools and are fit for each students’ size and needs. The work stations also have dual foot rests, which Benden says, makes ‘standing’ at the desk more comfortable and easier on the feet. Not only does it make standing more comfortable, it also helps to alleviate pressure from the lower back. Which the study revealed, over time, improves posture… The study additionally reveals, students’ who use the desks are not only helping to burn calories, they are also improving stamina while building a stronger attention span. Research has also proved those adults who use stand-up desks can lose up to 20 pounds in a year!

4 comments to Even if you exercise, it may not matter if you sit too much

  • 1

    Remembering my grammar school time in Catholic school, we were always taught to sit up straight, feet on the floor…I connected this to my study of Buddhism and Yoga, where the foot connection grounds the energy and steers the focus and where sitting up straight allows the kundalini energy to flow freely and strengthens the core. Many days, I thank those nuns who knew what they were talking about 100 of the time.

    Even the changing classes every hour or so helps to get the blood up and running again along with the mornng and afternoon outdoor recess time we always had, where me and my friends were either playing tag or jumping rope…no sand boxes or hangout pits…we were moving.

    We played basketball indoors and swam. Constant movement.
    It has carried through into my ault years and you will rarely catch me crossing my legs and cutting off circulation.

    As for standing up, yeah if it’s a lab, but sitting down is fine as long as it’s part of an entire program of good health.

  • 2
    Griff Wigley says:

    On NPR’s Morning Edition today, Sitting All Day: Worse For You Than You Might Think

    Blair recently headed a study at the University of South Carolina which looked at adult men and their risk of dying from heart disease. He calculated how much time the men spent sitting, in their cars, at their desk, in front of the TV. “Those who were sitting more were substantially more likely to die,” says Blair.

  • 3
    Griff Wigley says:

    In today’s Strib: Office-dwellers stand up to ‘sitting disease’

    Dr. James Levine has reviewed the statistics: One in three Minnesota adults is either diabetic or pre-diabetic, and one in four is obese. And he thinks he’s found the underlying ailment: “the sitting disease.” “Sitting is sort of the new smoking,” the Mayo Clinic endocrinologist said Wednesday on the eve of an experiment designed to tackle so-called “lifestyle” diseases.

    He and a team of researchers from Mayo and the University of Minnesota believe that even modest increases in daily activity could help people lose weight and improve their health — and help control the nation’s staggering health care bills.

  • 4
    Paul Zorn says:

    A few years ago one of my daughters spent a year working in Copenhagen, largely in an office setting. All desks in her office could be raised or lowered to permit either standing or sitting positions.

    I have no idea whether such accommodation — even for the humblest workers, like my daughter — is (i) legally required, or (ii) just embedded in the Danish culture, which appears to promote personal health in other ways, too, like urban bicycling on dedicated, barrier-protected lanes. If (ii) holds, then perhaps (i) is superfluous.

    (Nobody’s perfect … Danes seem to this outsider to drink and smoke too much.)

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