Is Sitting the new Smoking?
A kale salad will do little to offset the effect of 3 soft drinks per day just as 5 minutes of corrective exercises do little to counter 8 hours hunched over a computer.
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The data on the health risks of sitting is unequivocal and indicting. It could be argued that sitting is the new smoking. What’s more concerning is that prescribing corrective exercise isn’t enough to reverse the effects of sitting. As physio’s and medical practitioners, we need to looks at removing negative behavior, not just adding positive.
In a study published in May of 2010 in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise", researchers found that men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. That statistic is alarming, but it’s not particularly surprising. What was unexpected, however, was that the risks were relatively unrelated to how much the subjects exercised. Many of the subjects worked out regularly, but then they sat for hours and, despite the intermittent exercise, their risk of heart disease soared. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting. Adding a positive was not enough to counteract a negative.
Simple ways to soften the effects of a sedentary lifestyle include things such as monitoring hydration, starting the day with some exercise and taking walk breaks. If you have more lofty fitness goals then addressing your environment will help you get there too. Recently the BBC and University of Chester studied the effects of standing at our workplace in an attempt to quantify the potential health benefit. The study found that standing caused the volunteers to have a much higher heart rate (around 10 beats per minute higher), which adds up to burning about 50 calories more per hour versus sitting. Over a year, that adds up to about 30,000 more calories or 8 pounds of fat. Says University of Chester’s Dr John Buckley, "If you want to put that into activity levels, then that would be the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year. Just by standing up three or four hours in your day at work." The intention here is to consider factors outside of your training or exercise environment that might be impacting your health and performance. Despite an earnest and well-intentioned emphasis on health and fitness, our society may be guilty of compartmentalizing its efforts to a time slot in our day planner. If you are serious about committing to a healthier lifestyle it shouldn’t be something that you are just cramming into your lunch break. Let’s look at how we can change our environment to bring all of us closer to our health and fitness goals.