Sitting is the New Smoking


sitting is the new smokingThe last couple of years this health headline has been going around; that no matter what else you do, sitting for a certain number of hours per day will do bad things to your overall health.

We know that exercise and diet are really important as far as keeping us healthy, but it’s only recently that SITTING has become a big and real health issue.  A number of studies have made it very clear how important standing up has become, let alone walking about.

One study increased the calories of several hundred people who were not allowed to exercise.  Some of them gained weight, the others didn’t gain weight.  What was the difference?   Those who didn’t gain weight stood up and moved around, the others stayed seated.  “Well, natural enough”, you say.   The mind blowing part of it is that people don’t have to move around!  Here’s what happens.  The chemical LPL ( lipoprotein lipase) is essential for turning bad cholesterol into good. Sitting can also lead to insulin resistance and, therefore, trouble metabolizing sugar. All these strikes against it help to explain, at least in part, its association with heart disease and diabetes.turns fat into energy.  When sitting, the LPL level disappears.  When standing the LPL level starts working.  It doesn’t matter if people do exercise or not….the LPL level  gets high and stays there while standing; doesn’t get higher with exercise, standing is the key.  Sitting back down the LPL level disappears again.  There are also a couple of other enzymes that are involved with standing that affect other body functions.

Maybe I’m fortunate, I can’t sit for more than about 15 minutes, then I’m up.  Maybe that’s just the way I work; sitting, writing, thinking, then stand up to get some water and move things around on an adjacent desk, while thinking (in the background) about whatever I’m working on.  Other people can sit for hours, engrossed in the problem at hand, until they reach a resolution or finish the task.

We can’t escape our DNA; our body is designed to move and certainly not designed to sit.  In fact, sitting, until maybe the last several thousand years, meant squatting on our haunches, and in some parts of the world people still do that and don’t have back problems.  Oh right, that’s another issue.  There seems to be a host of evidence that many diseases: type II diabetes,  cancer, a host of muscular issues that we don’t even notice because we’ve had them for years and think it’s ‘normal’, and other health-related irregularities and serious emotional side effects are related to (or correlate highly with) the number of hours someone spends sitting.

Some people believe (probably me, too, if I really think about it) that if they work out really hard or for a long time that it balances out the amount of time sitting in a chair that day…..WRONNNNGG!  It doesn’t.  It’s the sitting that does it.  Like smoking, you can eat all the right stuff, exercise all the right ways, but smoking won’t be fooled; smoking will getcha.   And we’re just starting to learn that about sitting!  So get a standup desk, or occasionally switch to a ‘ball chair’, or…..well ANYTHING that will help you to stand up from your crouched over desk posture to something more vertical.