Over the years the one thing I have found to be true in life is that things are never as simple as we would like them to be. Just a few years ago if someone asked you if lived an active lifestyle, you knew that if you worked out for 30 to 60 minutes a day 4 to 6 days a week you could answer “yes.” If not, you said “I’m working on it.” For decades scientists have studied the relationship between how much we exercised and our exercise levels and health. But in the past five years, some scientists began looking at this correlation from a different perspective: Instead of thinking about what exercise does for the body, researches started to investigate what sitting for long periods of time does to the body. This was some seriously unconventional thinking.
Rather than looking at what we weren’t doing they started to look at what we were doing, which was a heck of a lot of sitting. In fact, by some estimates many people are sitting as much as 12 hours a day. This new perspective has begun to turn the science of sedentary studies on its head. Researchers from such diverse fields as epidemiology, molecular biology, biomechanics and physiology are seeing more data that is leading them to believe that the amount of sitting we do on a daily basis may not only be making us very sick, it could be causing us to die prematurely. The most disturbing revelation is that 30-60 minutes of sustained exercise may have little or no positive affect on a sedentary lifestyle. To put it simply, sitting for extended periods of time may be slowly killing you, and just working out after sitting around all day may not be enough to save you.
The fact that sitting around is bad for you isn’t very surprising; you would have to be living under a rock not to have heard that doing nothing for long periods of time could make you fat and unhealthy. But most of us thought that if we hopped on a treadmill or took a spin class or shook our groove thing in a Zumba class a few times a week, we’d be cool. But according to microbiologist Marc Hamilton from the University of Missouri we need to adjust our thought process. “People need to understand that the qualitative mechanisms of sitting are completely different from walking or exercising…Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. They do completely different things to the body.”
This subject has been thrust into the national spotlight with a new Australian study that looked at death rates over a three-year period. The study concluded that people who spent a lot of time sitting at a desk or in front of a television were more likely to die sooner than those who were only sedentary a few hours a day. Of more than 200,000 adults age 45 and older, the lead author of the study Hidde van der Ploeg and his colleagues at the University of Sydney found that people who reported sitting for at least 11 hours daily were 40 percent more likely to die during the study than those who sat less than 4 hours daily.
The results appear in the Archives of Internal Medicine, March 26, 2012, and reveal that the link between too much time sitting and shortened lives stuck even when they accounted for how much moderate or vigorous exercise people got, as well as their weight and other measures of health.
Another study released in July of 2012 showed that an analysis of five large studies that followed about 2 million people in several different countries lead by Peter Katzmarzyk of Louisiana State Universities Pennington Biomedical research Center found that the life expectancies of people who said they spent more than three hours a day sitting were a full two years less than people who spent less than three hours sitting daily. Maybe even more surprising was that this was true regardless of whether subjects reported getting the recommended amounts of exercise or not.
In a 2005 article in Science magazine, Dr. James A. Levine, an obesity specialist at the Mayo Clinic, gave his insights into why, despite similar diets, some people are fat and others aren’t. “We found that people with obesity have a natural predisposition to be attracted to the chair, and that’s true even after obese people lose weight,” he says. “What fascinates me is that humans evolved over 1.5 million years entirely on the ability to walk and move. And literally 150 years ago, 90% of human endeavor was still agricultural. In a tiny speck of time we’ve become “chair-sentenced,” Levine says. This “chair sentence” as Levine puts it may very well be a death sentence.
So what’s the big difference between sitting and standing, you ask? I mean just standing around seems every bit as lazy as sitting, doesn’t it? Hamilton knows better. “If you’re standing around and puttering, you recruit specialized muscles designed for postural support that never tire,” he says. “They’re unique in that the nervous system recruits them for low-intensity activity and they’re very rich in enzymes.” One enzyme, lipoprotein lipase, sucks fat and cholesterol from the blood stream, and burns the fat for energy while shifting the cholesterol from LDL (the bad kind of cholesterol) to HDL (the healthy kind of cholesterol). When you’re sitting, the muscles are relaxed, and enzyme activity drops by 90% to 95%, leaving fat to hang out in the bloodstream. After a couple hours of sitting, healthy cholesterol drops by 20%. Amazingly this is just one of the myriad of chemical changes that take place in the body while we sit. Sitting for extended periods of time has a huge cascade of effects on the body, everything from back pain and restricted blood flow to being implicated in an elevated risk of certain kinds of cancer. Let’s take a look at what this new research really has to say.
Sitting for extended periods of time is as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes. And exercising for 30-60 minutes a day isn’t enough to undo the damage from extended periods of sitting. Is Your Chair Killing You reveals shocking new research showing that sitting for long periods greatly increases your risk of developing obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. Our bodies were designed to move constantly over the course of the day, but most of us sit for hours a day at work and at home! Fitness and wellness expert and award-winning author Kent Burden has created brief, simple movements you can incorporate into your daily life to combat the damaging effects of sitting. These simple movements, done standing for 1-5 minutes each hour will burn calories, energize and refresh you, and you won’t even break a sweat; you’ll even improve your back pain. This book is a how-to for weight loss and disease prevention. Read this book–you’ll be healthier in as little as 8 minutes a day.
Nominated for the Dan Poynter Global Ebook Awards and won honorable mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival
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Genre – Non-Fiction
Rating – G
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