Is your office chair or home recliner resting between you and optimal health? The answer: most likely YES.
Since I sit for nearly 75% of my work day, I know how you feel. So does Gretchen Reynolds, a fellow sitter, thinker of thoughts, and writer of words.
One lesson I’ve learned while writing about fitness is that few things impinge on an active life as much as writing about fitness—all that time spent hunched before a computer or puzzling over scientific journals, the countless hours of feckless, seated procrastination.
Besides shortening the distance between mental acuity and a mental stupor, how bad is prolonged sitting on your health?
What the Science Says
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts set to find out. They measured the effect of physical inactivity by giving a group of healthy young men heavy platform shoes with 4-inch heals for their right feet. The men were instructed to hobble around on their right feet with crutches for two days. They were to leave their left feet dangling: no muscle contractions, no touching the ground.
After 48 hours had passed, the scientists biopsied both legs and found multiple genes already being expressed differently. The inactive left leg revealed lower insulin levels, slower metabolic activity, and disrupted DNA repair in comparison to the right.
A second experiment involved putting the back legs of lab animals in casts. Soon after, the newly handicapped animals were already producing substantially less of an enzyme that dissolves fat in the bloodstream… an enzyme important for staving off cardiac disease and diabetes.
Keep Your Enzymes Employed
So, it’s really not the TV, or TV dinners, or awful commercials that are killing you. It’s that you’re alive… and not producing enough enzymes to break down fat or complete a billion other complicated metabolic processes.
You know what will help? Standing! A related study at the University of Massachusetts showed that when volunteers stood all day, (just standing, no walking or jogging) they burned hundreds more calories than their fellow sitters. Standing isn’t even considered exercise, but on the scale from 1 to death, it puts you a lot closer to 1.
Whether or not you funnel the architectural foresight of the Shakers and hang your chair on your office wall or take walk-around-the-office breaks every 15 minutes, time will inevitably catch up with you. That’s a fact. Just make sure you can do what you want to do until then. For most people, that involves some kind of movement, beyond pressing numbers or letters on a TV remote, smartphone, or keyboard.
Now, stop reading this article and start moving!