Saturday, July 28, 2012

A health problem that made me sit up and take notice

I spend lots of my time at airports waiting for planes and I rarely sit down.  Even when an opportunity presents itself I prefer to pace around or just stand and stretch a bit.  The way I see it, I am shortly going to be glued to a seat for several hours and a voluntary sit-down is the last thing I need before the journey.

It seems like my anti-sitting stance (if you will excuse the pun) is backed up by hard science.  That's if you believe the reports in the press about new evidence suggesting sitting more than three hours a day can take 2 years off your life.  Apparently you can take off another 18 months if you do a lot of your sitting in front of the TV.  Sorry Homer.

Some exercise during a day of heavy sitting doesn't seem to counteract the effects of long motionless periods: the results were similar for people who exercised and those who didn't.

You have to question the statistical value of taking an average lifespan difference and applying that to individuals.  Presumably this 2 year figure relates to a sample of lives examined where some "sitters" died very young because of possibly related issues (heart attacks, obesity, dementia, cancer, diabetes) but some lived to a ripe old age.  Just because the average worked out to two years doesn't justify the "sitting takes two years off your life" headlines.

Some other scientists have also cast doubt on the findings saying that the results take insufficient account of associated lifestyle factors - people who sit a lot are maybe more likely to have other unhealthy habits so don't pin all the blame on sitting.

But it was a worrying finding for several reasons not least of which is the fact that I spend at least 10 hours a day seated.

It was a serous study covering over 150,000 people for several years.  The findings fit in with previous research (see this Australian study reported here - Sitting too long raises death risk) and frankly what you might intuitively think:  humans weren't designed to sit for hours staring at screens and there will be a cost.

Brits are among the least active people in the world according to this chart:

But the it is in America where the issue of sitting too long has provoked the most discussion.  There is even a trend towards standing at work which is supposed to offer a myriad benefits such as weight loss, better attention spans and less back trouble.  Office supply shops sell adjustable desks which allow you to stand or sit.

As ever with these health trends there are contradictory voices which cast doubt on the benefits of standing and studies which show it has little or no effect.

One thing that is no in dispute is that modern man and woman is not active enough full stop; sitting for long periods is just an extreme manifestation of this.  

So I am going to try and make myself get up and walk round the office at least three times an hour.  Sounds a lot but when you consider that you get up naturally quite a lot any way it is not such a hard thing to do.  If I get up to go to the printer I go a long way round the office and I find more reasons for standing up and stretching my legs, like getting a cup of water.

From our website :  Beckham's Law survives

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