Off Your Duff – Sitting Hazardous to Health
Sitting can be the “kiss of death” says Ron DeAngelo of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, according to Jack Kelly, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. DeAngelo insists that humans were not designed to sit. “In prehistoric days we never sat, ” he said.
A study published by researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU) found that people who sit for most of the day are 54% more likely to get a heart attack than are people who sit for less than three hours a day. People who are active live about two years longer.
Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little, " said Marc Hamilton, Ph.D. of LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the lead researcher. "Sitting does completely different things to the body.
And none of them are good, he says. When people sit for prolonged periods, good genes are turned off and bad genes are turned on. Sitting shuts down the circulation of lipase, a fat-absorbing enzyme, according to researchers at the University of Missouri. The leg muscles responsible for standing almost immediately lost more than 75% of their ability to remove harmful lipo-proteins from the blood, Hamilton found in his study of rats forced to be inactive.
Sitting is more deadly for women than for men, according to Kelly. American Cancer Society researchers studied the records of 123, 216 people enrolled in the Cancer Prevention II study between 1992 and 2006. Men who sat for six or more hours a day were 18% more likely to die during that period than men who sat for less than three hours. Women who sat for six or more hours were 37% more likely to die.
Lack of mobility makes us older faster, said Vonda Wright, Ph.D. director of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes at UPMC Sports Medicine."Down to a very cellular level we are designed to move, ” Wright said. "When we are moving, our bodies maintain the functions that keep us moving.”But when we stop moving for extended periods, our natural defenses against disease weaken. We get sick more often; we stay sick longer.” Chronic disease is the principal cause of aging, Wright said.
Even if an individual exercises, if he sits for more than 11 hours a day, he is up to 40% more likely to die within three years than someone who sits for less than four hours, according to an Australian study, reported by Kelly.
Sitting for prolonged periods is the principal cause of low back pain, DeAngelo said. Sitting causes the curve in the lumbar spine to flatten, which puts pressure on discs, ligaments and muscles. For DeAngelo, the solution is obvious. Don't sit. "The No. 1 thing I recommend is to change from a seated desk to a standing desk, " he said. Standing facilitates circulation of blood, which sitting impedes. Most who've made the switch to stand-up desks say they're mentally sharper. This is because when you stand, more blood is pumped to your brain.
What's ideal is to stand for a while, then sit for a while. Workers who were given sit-stand desks reduced their sitting time by 66 minutes a day, and reported a 54% reduction in neck and upper back pain, according to a study done in Minneapolis last year Kelly reported.