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Why Your Chair Is Killing You

May 19, 2011 - Dalia Jakubauskas
If you are reading this sitting down, you may want to get up and move around a bit. That chair your sitting in has proven to be bad for your health. Recent studies, including one published in 2010 in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggest that people that sit for prolonged periods of time have a higher risk of disease than those who move more. Desk workers and couch potatoes, whose bodies barely move for hours on end, have a greater propensity toward obesity and related diseases such as certain cancers and diabetes. What’s worse, these same studies have shown that, even if you exercise vigorously for an hour each day, if you are sitting or sleeping for the other 23, you could still be headed for health problems. Many people mistakenly believe the word sedentary only applies to folks that don’t exercise. But a Swedish research team suggests that sedentary behavior should apply to a distinct group of behaviors that contribute to bad health. These include long hours of TV watching or sitting in front of a computer, sleeping more than normal, or traveling seated for long periods of time. For example, a study showed a woman’s risk of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease, jumped 26% for every hour she sits in front of the television. A glaring symptom of metabolic syndrome is excessive belly fat and a thick middle. A number of studies have shown that regular exercisers were just as fat as non-exercisers if they moved little during their day, an alarming revelation to faithful gym rats. One recent study of novice doctors doing the same work on the same week found that some individuals walked four times farther than others on any given day. While no one in the study was overweight, the doctors who walked farther were thinner than those who walked shorter distances. More bad news related to sitting includes evidence that non-activity actually produces bad stuff in your body. For instance, studies indicate that low levels of a molecule known as lipoprotein lipase, which are produced in the muscles, are associated with health problems like heart disease. A study done on rats showed this molecule is produced only when the animals were moving. This finding suggests that sitting slows the metabolism. So, if sitting too much hastens your demise and daily exercise is not enough to counter a sedentary life style, then what to do? The answer is simple –just move! Brief periods of movement throughout the day coupled with a healthy diet and regular exercise should do the trick. You don’t have to go to extremes like some people who can only power their TV’s by hooking them up to a treadmill or stationary bike. Just add some more steps to your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little further away from the entrance to your destination. Get up frequently from your chair to stretch or walk for a few minutes. Walk or stand while talking on the phone. Sit on an exercise ball while at your desk. Even using a rocking chair while watching TV requires more energy than just sitting still. All of these activities engage muscles that expend little energy if left in a prolonged sitting position. Just the act of standing requires muscles to contract and burn calories that would otherwise drift toward your middle and turn to fat. Weight gain for most people is a slow drift that happens over a period of years. An extra pound or two one month, then another couple of pounds several months later adds up over the years. Cutting back on the calories and increasing time spent moving can reverse this trend. It may be a slow process. But, what have you got to lose other than the fat and a good chance of dying of a preventable disease?


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