By Ken Reed

Some say sitting is the new smoking. Doctors have recently coined the term “Sedentary Death Syndrome (SDS)” to describe the multitude of diseases resulting from a sedentary lifestyle.

“Excessive sitting is a lethal activity,” says Dr. James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

While regular exercise is beneficial it’s not enough if you have a desk job that requires sitting in a chair staring at a computer screen for nine hours a day. You need to move more than the 30 minutes you spend at the gym.

Studies have shown that sitting negatively impacts our health in both the short-and-long-term.

Dr. Marc Hamilton, an inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, describes what happens during prolonged sitting in a New York Times article written by James Vlahos:

“Electrical activity in the muscles drops — ‘the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,’ Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and tryglycerides for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.”

As you can imagine, the negative effects of a sitting lifestyle add up over a lifetime, as this paragraph from Vlahos’ article points out:

“Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher.”

Fortunately, we don’t have to go on strict, six-days-a-week, cardiovascular-training regimens to combat the effects of sitting. We just need to move more, even little movements.

Dr. Levine has started a campaign against what he terms “the chair-based lifestyle.” Doing little things like standing up during phone calls, getting up to walk down the hall for a drink of water, taking the stairs to our offices instead of the elevator, and incorporating standing desks or treadmill desks in our workspaces instead of sitting desks (this applies to our children in schools as well).

Farmers and others who have jobs requiring at least modest physical activity have an advantage over the rest of us who spend most of our time in front of a computer screen. But there are numerous little things that we can do during the day to increase the number of our daily movements.

And instead of leaving work to go home to sit on the couch to watch a basketball game, we could go to the gym and actually play basketball ourselves.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Directors, League of Fans


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