If you have been paying attention at all, you know that sitting is the new smoking.
It doesn’t take a mental giant to know that sitting too much is not good for you, but the new smoking? That is extreme. Except that maybe it isn’t.
When we think about the soaring obesity rates among children and then think about how much time children spend in front of video games, it makes some sense. I know what you are thinking, you are thinking, Greta, it is because they are not exercising, period, not just because they are sitting.
But new research suggests otherwise. According to recent studies—and there have been a slew of them—sitting for hours a day will shorten our lives, age us, and make us vulnerable to all sorts of health issues, from cancer to diabetes to obesity. And further, even if you run regularly, exercise hard, you are still at risk if you come home and flop of the couch after your hour run.
Sitting for periods of time triggers signals in the brain to reduce certain enzymes, it messes with our insulin, and it frays the little end caps of our chromosomes, called telomeres, and this speeds up aging and disease.
Even working out regularly at the gym is not enough, since many of us are sitting for hours on end at the office, at home. When our big muscles, like our legs, aren’t working, then our metabolism slows down. In essence, we are built to move much, much more than we do, and the fix is actually easier than you think.
Stand up more. Just that. Make yourself do it. Standing for just three hours a day for a year can have the same calorie burning impact on us as running ten marathons.
One British journalist decided to stand for an entire month, all day long, every day, unless she was involved with something that absolutely required sitting, like driving her kids around. She lost two dress sizes, although she reported that she made up excuses to take the kids places, just to sit for a little bit.
Her doctor said that she was silly to attempt that all in one fell swoop, because it can be bad for your back and joints and feet to shock them so, but still, she made her point.
I wrote in this space a few columns back, about all the fitness bands I have purchased and I gave the impression I wouldn’t buy another one. Well, I lied. A week after that column ran I went out and purchased the Polar Loop because my friend, John, has one, and I thought it was cool, and my friend, Susie, also has one and I think she is cool. This really is the fitness band for me for these reasons.
It is super light and comfortable, and I think it looks really good, not so obviously sporty, although upon seeing it, someone asked me if I was on house arrest. What I like about it is this. It gives me non-athlete, information I can embrace. It tells me when it is time to move, and it also gives me suggestions for reaching my fitness goals for the day.
I can jog for 45 minutes, I can walk for an hour and a half, or…wait forit…I can stand UP for three hours and fifteen minutes. That’s right. Just being upright chips away at my goal. The little manual that came with it even gives suggestions—dusting, cleaning, baking.
Baking! Part of a legitimate fitness regime! When I sync my Loop to the computer, it shows me how much time I have spent in bed, sitting, walking, running, and upright. It is shocking to see how much I sit. Even on days when I am active, all that sitting.
I have a colleague who has rigged up a standing desk and I am working on doing the same. I can’t quite figure it out, but I will. I have been whittling away at the number of hours I spend sitting, but it is harder than you would think. It is liberating to think that doing even light chores is part of my fitness plan. Research has told us for years that we are built to move, walk five miles a day, eat what is naturally provided, get some sun. And now we we can all be marathoners without ever actually running one.
Sign me up for that.