What’s one of the deadliest activities you can engage in? Smoking? Not wearing a seat belt? Yes, both of these are on the list, but one activity that you probably do a lot that you may not put on the most deadly list is…sitting.
Turns out that a new field of medical investigation called “inactivity” studies is revealing that sitting is one of the deadliest things we can do. We humans evolved over tens of thousands of years while moving—hunting and gathering. We are designed to move. But in the last century, the industrial revolution gave us hundreds, if not thousands, of “labor-saving devices” and now the norm is not to move. Cars, dishwashers, coffee pots, washing machines, motorized walkways, airplanes, elevators save us energy—literally, and in turn, they have fueled the obesity epidemic.
To date, sitting on our rears has been linked to heart disease, metabolic problems, excess weight and a shorter life span, not to mention the psychological stress of sitting in a cubbyhole at work all day. The bottom line is the more you sit—especially those who sit more than six hours a day—the greater your risk of death, especially from heart disease. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that time spent sitting was independently associated with death, regardless of physical activity level. That means, even if you go to the gym and work out for an hour each day, sitting the rest of the time is contributing to your risk of a number of serious chronic diseases and early death.
What to do? Just move. Stand up whenever you can. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, not only because I see the data rolling in from the medical studies, but also because our office here at HealthiNation is undergoing a total renovation. This gives us the opportunity to redesign our workspace to be more health-friendly. So, I’ve been pitching for bistro tables and a high counter so that we can leave our desks and stand up to work. I’ve also taken to standing a lot of the time during meetings. I’ll let you know how the renovations proceed. Stayed tuned.
Levine, JA. Health-Chair Reform: Your chair, comfortable but deadly. Diabetes 2010:59;2715-16.
Patel, AV. Leisure Time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Am J Epidemiol 2010;172:419-429.
Vlahos, J. Is sitting a lethal activity? New York Times, April 14, 2011. (Accessed on Aug. 10, 2011 at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17sitting-t.html.)