What if I told you sitting all day is killing you? Well, that’s exactly what scientists have discovered in several recent studies, including one published this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. It turns out, our bodies were never meant to be glued to a seat for up to 60% of the day, and that our hunting and gathering ancestors who stood up or walked for 90% of their day actually had the right idea.
How bad is sitting, really? Dr. James A. Levine, Director of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Solutions Initiative and the inventor of the treadmill desk, who has published more than 100 scientific papers, has this to say in hisarticle for MindBodyGreen: “Your chair is killing you. Many American workers sit more than 15 hours each day. Think about it for a second. You get up in the morning, drive to work, sit all day long at work, drive home, eat dinner, watch TV and surf the Internet before bed. This degree of excess sitting is not what our bodies were designed to do.”
Dr. Levine says our propensity for a posterior perch is associated with chronic diseases and conditions like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer (especially breast cancer) and depression, among many others.
Where’s the proof?
The groundbreaking study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine was conducted by scientists in Sweden who tracked the physiological changes in groups of people who were instructed to sit or exercise for varying amounts of time. Specific attention was given to whether the changes in sedentary time affected people’s telomeres (the caps on the end of DNA strands that shorten and fray as cells age). Long telomeres are correlated with a higher degree of health and vitality, and short telomeres are correlated with aging and eventually death. Telomeres have been found to shorten as a result of obesity, illness, and other conditions, and now sitting has been added to the list.
The scientists compared the telomeres of those who sat for the least amount of time in the study and found that their telomeres had lengthened, “their cells seemed to be growing physiologically younger.” The telomeres in the control group (who sat longer) were shorter than they had been six months before. The conclusion is that healthy/non-sedentary lifestyles may preserve telomere length and delay cell aging and that mortality rates declined at higher levels of standing.
How do I Take a Stand?
Yes, standing is better than sitting. But it’s not the only solution to battling our sedentary lives. A team of researchers from Indiana University found a fix that’s just as effective as switching to a standing desk, without the big investment-- a few short walks a day! They claim a couple 5 minute moderate-paced walks daily is enough to combat the ill-effects of your desk job.
Here at Grokker, we have a few of our own ideas to add when it comes to working out while working, including toning from your office chair, yoga at your desk, guided meditation, and lunchtime recreation. And by the way, you shouldn’t have to sneak in your wellness break when you’re on the job either. Get equipped for greater workplace wellness, whether it’s taking part in the program your employer offers or starting your own. The bottom line of any company is stronger when you’re stronger too!