Maybe you’re a fire jumper, riding helicopters into the heart of blazing infernos, where you run around putting your life on the line to put the blaze out. Or a professional marathon runner, exercising day in and day out, racking up the miles and the awards. Or a cop, working your beat, or a nurse, on your feet through the graveyard shift. But, most likely, you’re not. You’re an office worker, reading this on your office computer, in your chair where you spend eight hours a day. No judgment! I too work in an office all day long. However, you and I should look out-recent studies show that spending your day seated has a high correlation with a radically increased chance of heart disease. So, unless you actually are a fire jumper, read on and learn what you can do about it!
Let’s get down to the facts. A study published by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise revealed a striking, almost terrifying correlation between sitting on your rear end all day and heart disease. The researchers studied the amount of time spent sitting and mortality in about 17,000 Canadians (aged 18-20) for 12 years and found that sitting almost all the time (excluding sleep, unless you’re really crazy) increases your risk of dying from heart related diseases by 54% compared to sitting almost none or a quarter of the time. If you sit for three quarters of your day it increases by 47%, and half increases it by 22%.
Think about it. Let those numbers sink in. If you spend your whole day behind a desk, the chances of your dying of a heart related disease go up by more than fifty percent. But what is that I hear you cry? You exercise after work? No matter! The risk is still 40% higher compared to those who don’t sit at all. “High amounts of sitting cannot be compensated with occasional leisure time physical activity recommendations,” says research author Peter Katzmarzyk, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA.
What does sitting do to your system? Being sedentary (absence of whole-body movement) is associated with obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism and the metabolic syndrome. Basically, sitting down shuts off your body’s fat burning mechanisms. When you are seated for a long time, your legs are inactive (unless you are one of those annoying types who drum their heels incessantly) and consequently you lose flexibility, and oxygen and nutrients can’t flow properly through your body.
So what can you do to ameliorate this potential for death? Going to the gym after work doesn’t make any substantive difference in this particular case, so is there anything you can do? Yes. Of course there is! Just get up every twenty minutes or so and dance around, shake out your legs and touch your toes. Drink tons of water so that you have to go to the bathroom often. Also, even just 10 minute of resistance (weight) training can rev up your metabolism. You don’t have to do a P90X workout–just having a set of weights under your desk can be an easy and fun way to exercise whenever you stand up-just grab them and do some shoulder presses, and some bicep curls, and you’ll almost immediately be miles ahead of the others who just languish at their desks without ever twitching a muscle.