As I STOOD to read for one of my classes, I felt compelled to share what I came across. I try to keep things short, but get excited and right more than I intend to. Sorry peeps…
New research indicates that excessive sitting throughout most days of the week is a “deadly proposition.” People who spend most of the day sitting are cancelling out the health benefits obtained through physical activity and exercise. Oh shizzz…this means if you are not active, not moving or working, and you are partaking in inactive actions for most of the day, then you are at a deficit, and swiftly decreasing your lifespan. Sorry, I know it’s morbid, but it’s the truth. The more you sit the greater death debt you collect…not good.
Even worse, there is now a disease name for this way of life. It is called hypokinetic disease, and it is becoming an increasingly greater cause of death and illness in the US. Hypokinetic disease refers to physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle. So now we not only have an obesity epidemic, but also a sedentary epidemic. Wonderful.
So what’s the solution? It’s no secret, and you’ve heard it more times than you care to – you have to be active and exercise. I admit it does require effort and energy, and it is much easier said than done. Many of us can’t find the motivation to exercise, or have almost no time to fit in a workout, or would rather prioritize sleep over working out. Trust me, I get it. I have been exercising my entire life, and do so almost every morning, and still feel as if someone threw a rock at my face when I get up for my workout. I just tell myself to get out of bed, put on my gym clothes, and do what I can for the day, even if it’s no more than a 5 minutes walk or jog. 99% of the time I end up going from 5 to 20+ minutes of cardio. For me, the hardest part is starting.
Overtime, I have come to realize that people put a lot of pressure on themselves when it comes to exercise. We tend to discount the advantages of doing a few minutes of activity throughout the day. Yes, more is better, and research shows how beneficial moderate to intense activity and exercise (i.e., activities that really get your heart pounding) is for the human brain and body, BUT I would argue that doing nothing at all is far worse than doing something, even if it does end up being a 5 minute walk.
What happened? How did we get here? Well, the human body was created for movement and activity, and back in the hunter-gatherer days this wasn’t really an issue. Throughout time we have turned into a sitting society. It’s a result of several things, which I won’t get into, but here we are today. Americans spend half their waking hours sitting. Think about it for a minute – we sit at home; we sit while driving to and from work; we sit at the office and in meetings; we sit at dinner; we sit while watching TV; and then we sit to sleep. Sleep is more of a lay than a sit I suppose, unless you find yourself catching z’s in a plane, train, or car; all of which actually happen to be popular sleep spots for many of us nowadays.
There is some good news to balance out this disappointing information…THINGS ARE SLOWLY CHANGING. As we learn more, and recognize the adverse affects of seemingly harmless day-to-day actions, new ideas and innovations have entered our world from workplace contraptions (e.g., standing desks) to “walk and talk” meetings. However, none of these are replacements for moderate to intense physical activity. You’ve got to get that heart rate up! Maybe take the stairs more often? Or sprint from the parking lot to your desk? I joke, but this is actually a serious issue. It’s so important for humans to be active, exercise, and move. Here are a few facts and figures for those of you who are more data-driven:
- Studies indicate that people who spend most of their day sitting have as much as a 50% greater risk of dying prematurely from all causes and an 80% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
- Data further indicate that death rates are still high for people who spend most of their day sitting, even though they meet the current minimum moderate-physical activity recommendation (30 minutes, at least 5 times per week).
- Excessive sitting leads to weak muscles, a sluggish central nervous system, increased fatigue, decreased insulin sensitivity, higher blood pressure, decreased activity of lipoprotein lipase (an enzyme that breaks down fats in the blood), and increased cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
- A major contributor to back pain is excessive sitting, which causes back muscles to shorten, stiffen, and become weaker.
I am notoriously known for my incessant standing. I actually started standing because my legs cramped one day at work, and I just couldn’t handle sitting any longer. Now, I know the health benefits too, which is even greater incentive for me to stand. I never intended on becoming a professional stander, but it happened, and I quickly noticed that I felt better and more alert when I stood or paced around. It also improved my concentration and work productivity. I can’t sit still for long as it is, and standing not only calms me, but also helps me stay focused.
Last tid bit…Want to know something neat? There is actually a term for daily activities that expend energy not related to exercise and the acronym is called NEAT (stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis). There are many good, easily doable recommendations, from standing while working and talking on the phone, to taking a 10-minute break every hour to stretch and walk around, to parking further away. Find whatever works for you, but do something that gets you up more during the day.