25 February 2015

Get Up, Stand Up: Stand Up For Your... Life

The great Bob Marley wrote a song that starts with these lyrics:
Get up, stand up: Stand up for your rights!

I apologize to Bob Marley for changing the last word in the first line of his song to "Life" and using this to catch your attention but more and more studies are showing the relationship between two things: extended time spent sitting and dying. And it doesn't matter how much you workout in the morning or evening. If you sit for most of your day, typically at a desk job, you are not doing yourself any favors. You need to get up periodically, even if it's just a stroll to get some water or talk to someone in the office face to face or to take a 2 minute stretch the legs walk. Doing something is better than just sitting there at a computer screen for a solid hour or longer, working on something.

Sitting is BAD for you. Sitting for long periods increases your risk of death. Sitting wrecks havoc on your body. Sitting makes you fat.

According to a CNN report a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine points to the relationship between a sedentary lifestyle and the risk of contracting a disease that will shorten your life, even if you exercise! This was the conclusion drawn after a metastudy of over 40 previous scientific studies on sedentary behavior. Cardiovascular issues, cancer, and chronic conditions (e.g. type 2 diabetes) were found to be much more common among those who spend long periods sitting. Physical INactive, according to the World Health Organization, is the 4th leading risk factor for death.

The human body is designed to move, not to be sedentary. If you look at our ancestors you will see
activity for most of a day (excluding sleep). There wasn't a whole lot of sitting around. You could say that they "exercised" when they performed hard or difficult tasks (persistence hunting, escaping danger) but a large portion of their day would have involved "non-exercise" activity. Non-exercise activity in our day would be anything from washing dishes to being a cashier to gardening. Any of these things involve much more movement, and calorie burn, than sitting at a computer, driving, sitting reading a book, or sitting and watching TV.

You need to get up, stand up, and move. Even as an athlete, if you sit for much of your day then you are also at risk. And since you are an athlete not sitting is also important because the more you sit the more likely it is that your lymphatic system will shut off which is bad for recovering from your previous workout. If you sit some of your muscles will be in a shortened, relaxed position hour after hour instead of supporting your spine or pelvis and maintaining an appropriate range of motion.

What should you do? Be aware of how much sitting you actually do. Then make changes:

  • Get up and walk around every 1/2 hour.
  • If you watch TV then get up every commercial break, EVEN if you DVR your shows and fast forward through those commercials.
  • Stand up while you talk on the phone.
  • Change your "default" position. Instead of sitting make standing your most convenient option.
  • Get or make a standing desk to work at. I made one out of stuff from Ikea for about $20(pictured above left). Or use the approach pictured below. (Note that, just like a scheduled workout, you should ease into this. Build up standing time gradually.)

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