Lately I have spent a surprising amount of time thinking about the subject of sitting. My wife Rebecca, who is senior editor at The Creativity Post and a research maven, has sent me several articles about the dangers — yes, dangers! — of sitting. Like a recent piece from the Harvard Business Review blog:
As we work, we sit more than we do anything else. We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping. Sitting is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And, everyone else is doing it also, so it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not okay. In that way, I’ve come to see that sitting is the smoking of our generation.
Of course, health studies conclude that people should sit less, and get up and move around. After 1 hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as 90%. Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism affecting things like (good cholesterol) HDL levels in our bodies. Research shows that this lack of physical activity is directly tied to 6% of the impact for heart diseases, 7% for type 2 diabetes, and 10% for breast cancer, or colon cancer. You might already know that the death rate associated with obesity in the US is now 35 million. But do you know what it is in relationship to Tobacco? Just 3.5 million. The New York Times reported on another study, published last year in the journal Circulation that looked at nearly 9,000 Australians and found that for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11%. In that article, a doctor is quoted as saying that excessive sitting, which he defines as nine hours a day, is a lethal activity.
A “lethal activity”.
And so I ask these questions in all seriousness, knowing a majority of GITS readers are writers who sit for a substantial portion of each day: Are you worried about sitting so much? If so, what are you doing about it?
I do three things:
* First on my computer, I set a desktop alarm… or try to… so that every hour, it goes off, reminding me to get off my ass, walk around, stretch my muscles and so forth.
* Second for Christmas, Rebecca and I got each other a device that monitors our movements. [Totally weird because we had not discussed it beforehand at all, just complete serendipity.] Mine is from a company called Jawbone and it counts the number of steps I take each day as well as my sleeping patterns. What I have found since I’ve been wearing it is I am motivated to go to sleep earlier and to walk more, both presumably good things.
* Third I have a standing desk. Well, not really. I researched getting one for my office, then had an inspiration that one of the chairs I have for visitors might be just the perfect height for my laptop if I put it atop my desk. And sure enough, it is! So a couple of times each day, I lift the chair, put my computer on its seat, and stand there typing away for a half-hour or so.
How about you? Are you concerned about the scourge of sitting? Are you doing anything to combat the negative impact of ass-on-chair-itis?
I know it may sound silly, but if these scientific reports are to be believed, the amount of time we sit is directly attributable to decreased life-span. And with all of us chained to our computers, no wonder they talk about it as the smoking of our generation.
Excuse me… I have to stand up now!
For more of the Harvard Business Review article, go here.