Daily Archives: July 14, 2010

Can sitting kill you? I hope not because I’m sitting right now….

I, like many of you, spend a lot of my day sitting.  Between class, the subway, going out to restaurants, watching tv etc…I get a lot of time in on my tush.  So I found this article about the effects of sitting for long hours in the New York Times Health section to be a little frightening…http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/14/phys-ed-the-men-who-stare-at-screens/?ref=health.  Here is a little excerpt:

In a study published in May in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, they reported that, to no one’s surprise, the men who sat the most had the greatest risk of heart problems. Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting.

Most of us have heard that sitting is unhealthy. But many of us also have discounted the warnings, since we spend our lunch hours conscientiously visiting the gym. We consider ourselves sufficiently active. But then we drive back to the office, settle at our desks and sit for the rest of the day. We are, in a phrase adopted by physiologists, ‘‘active couch potatoes.’’

Like you…I started to freak out a little.  So exercising will do nothing to counteract sitting on the couch!  What!  That’s so NOT FAIR.  But wait a sec…I continued to read the article and found that it isn’t just the exercise that counts but also the accumulation of “light intensity activities” that is supremely important.  This can be anything from household chores – mopping, cooking, changing light bulbs, to simply walking city blocks.  While exercise does not fully undo the effects of prolonged sitting, “You can…ameliorate the dangers of inactivity with several easy steps — actual steps.”  That means taking the stairs instead of the escalator, doing crunches while watching “Real Housewives of New Jersey”, and walking a few extra blocks every day instead of taking the subway.  It’s the little things that add up to a healthier lifestyle.  Luckily, living in New York, which is the ultimate walking city, we have plenty of opportunities to be active every day.  It’s a matter of being more conscious of how these little things can add up, and choosing to go against the gravitational pull towards the couch…and going for a walk around the neighborhood instead.