Odds are that if you’re reading this, you’re sitting down.
Maybe you’re on the computer at your desk at home or in the office, or at the kitchen counter or, God forbid, in the bathroom. Maybe you’re on your phone in coffee shop or a restaurant or in the car (parked, please) where you’re bored waiting for someone and looking for something to read.
Wherever you are, shut it down, step away and take a walk, a bike ride, a run or something because the great technological advances of our time are conspiring to try to kill you, medical authorities are saying once again.
Not directly mind you. This not like e. coli contaminated romaine lettuce, but your office chair, your couch, even your driver’s seat might actually be more deadly.
A study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) underlines what previous studies have found.
“High amounts of sedentary behavior and low levels of physical activity are associated with increased risk of premature mortality and some chronic diseases,” wrote Emily Ussery, an epidemiologist at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues who studied American sitting habits.
We sit too much
The essence of what Ussery and her group found is that Americans sit too much.
A survey revealed that almost 95 percent of the population sits for at least four hours each day, and only 2.6 percent of people report limiting their sitting to less than four hours at a stretch and getting the medically recommended 150 to 300 minutes activity for the week.
More than 25 percent reported sitting for 8 hours or more per day.
Is this you? Are you the one who sits down at the computer in the morning and then looks up to see that it’s late afternoon, and you’re still in the chair?
Homo sapiens did not evolve to do this. They evolved as mobile, upright primates able to cover ground to find food. There are indications some might even have evolved to run.
Sitting, for most of human existence, was a luxury. No one had time for it in the busy daily cycle of a subsistence life.
No more. We sit and sit and sit, and it’s deadly.
A 2012 Australian study concluded that the more you sit the greater your chances of an early death no matter whether you are fat or thin, old or young, male or female.
“The association between sitting and all-cause mortality appears relatively consistent across women and men, age groups, body-mass-index categories, and physical activity levels and across healthy participants compared with those with preexisting cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus,” the researchers led by Hidde P. van der Ploeg from the Amsterdam Public Health research institute.
We sit almost everywhere
“Recent analyses of prospective studies have suggested that all-cause mortality is adversely associated with television viewing, recreational screen time, sitting during leisure time, sitting in a car, sitting during main activities (eg, work, school, and housework), and occupations that involve prolonged sitting,” van der Ploeg added.
It is kind of amazing how much life in the 21st Century has come to be dominated by sitting for most people.
The workplace is one of the key culprits, Dr. John Higgins from McGovern Medical School in Houston told Medpage Today, a website for health-care professionals.
“That is where we have to target a new approach to health and wellness,” he said.
“We need to seriously think about changing the workplace environment such that we minimize sitting, for example, standing desks, meetings and increase activity, for example, activity trackers at work with competitions, rewards for increased activity, walking meetings, small gym at work/paid gym near work and up to one hour at gym counts for work.”
There is debate as to whether company wellness programs actually produce enough insurance savings to be worthwhile to businesses, but there is no argument on walking meetings, a favorite of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
A definitive study at Stanford University clearly demonstrated that walking boosts creativity along with improving health.
“…While seated and then when walking on a treadmill, adults completed Guilford’s alternate uses (GAU) test of creative divergent thinking and the compound remote associates test of convergent thinking. Walking increased 81 percent of participants’ creativity on the GAU,” wrote the study’s lead author, Marily Oppezzo.
“Moreover, when seated after walking, participants exhibited a residual creative boost,” she wrote. “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”
So get up and move. Maybe go walk off that turkey dinner?