Sitting is killing you! Every major publication, newspaper, and scientific journal has recently published an article with a similar headline.

In the current issue of Scientific American James Levine “Killer Chairs” article states that average American sits for 13 hours per day! That’s more then we sleep, which is another topic all in itself. Research found that sitting for 4 hours or more increases mortality by 46% and sitting for half the day doubles the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Killer Chairs

Our bodies have not evolved to sit most of the day, give it another million years. In the meantime our brain and body do what they are designed to do, regulate and keep balance. Sitting for longer then an hour signals our cells to slow down the metabolism, which leads to less food being converted to energy and more converted to fat and the result is obesity and all the ailments that accompany it. If you are a diabetic, then you know that moving after eating helps regulate insulin and decrease blood sugar spikes.

Although what we eat is just as important, being active can be “dramatically more effective.” The “magic underwear” study compared people of agricultural, industrial, and urban settings in USA and Jamaica. These groups wore Spandex underwear with posture and motions sensors for 10 days. The results showed that agricultural people in Jamaica walk twice as much as urban people in Jamaica and the USA, furthermore agricultural community sat for only three hours per day versus up to 15 hours for the urban population. Agricultural work burns a whopping 2000 more calories then sedentary urban workers. Not sitting burns A LOT of calories. Levine called this phenomenon “nonexericses activity thermogenesis” or NEAT.

Another study looked at NEAT in lean and obese people that otherwise had similar environments, diets, and jobs. The obese population sat 2.25 hours more and expended 350 calories less per day then the lean counterparts. To further test their theory, these two groups were fed an extra 1000 calories per day for 8 weeks! The interesting part was that the lean group did not gain weight because their NEAT increased, however the obese group gained weight as their NEAT did not increase. The conclusion is that the obese group ignored the body’s need to move more to burn the extra calories, probably because the “modern chair based environment has overwhelmed this biologically driven balancing act.”

The solution is simple really – MOVE OFTEN!

Bouts of exercises, also known as going to the gym, are not enough to undo the damage of prolonged sitting. If you are stuck sitting, get up every 30 minutes, even if it’s just for a minute or two. Drink more water and the bladder will get you up more regularly. When talking on the phone stand up, stretch, or walk around. Get a desk that allows you to work standing up intermittently, or if able get a treadmill desk. Standing burns twice as many calories as sitting, strengthens bones and muscles by increasing weigh bearing through the long bones of the legs. Get a pedometer and make an effort to reach 10 000 steps per day.

Full article Killer Chairs by Levine can be found here:

TED Talk Animation: Our body is built to move and what happens when we don’t:

A nice poster to put it all in perspective (click to enlarge):
Killer Chairs

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