Today, “The Sitting Of America,” tops the media health news with stern messages of what to do and what not to do to avoid certain diseases and early aging. Previously, stand-up and treadmill desks were viewed as a fad. Now studies are starting to prove these desks are crucial to our health.
In fact, standing up for 10 minutes every hour is the “bare” minimum suggested by studies performed by Dr. James A. Levine, the co-director of the Mayo Clinic and the Arizona State University Obesity Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk. Initially, his peers, who sent letters suggesting he was psychiatrically ill, protested these studies.
Since then, the insinuation that sitting was independently harmful, and harmful enough to kill has been validated by over 10,000 publications.
In fact, sitting is still harmful to health, irrespective of other lifestyle habits, including an excellent exercise program. Although, it might appear counterintuitive, it turns out regular exercise is not enough to protect from the hazards of prolonged sitting.
The studies evidence is overwhelming and growing, showing prolonged sitting is devastating to our health, causing obesity and a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Dr. Levine strongly suggests eliminating sitting altogether.
My first reaction to his statement was to believe it was a commercial venture for Dr. Levine’s Treadmill Desk. However I decided not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The truth is we have become a sedentary, forward flexion, sitting world and these studies support my lifelong belief of “move it or lose it.”
The minute you stand up, molecular mechanisms at the cellular level send a cascade of activities impacting the functioning of your muscles, improving the way your body handles blood sugar and pushing fuels into cells. All of this is accomplished by carrying your bodyweight on your legs.
The body was designed to be active and moving all day, not crammed into a chair, possibly with head forward, belly out, slumping posture, lowering your metabolism and causing back and wrist pain. Of course, we are supposed to rest. Rest is merely for breaking up periods of activity, not meant for an all day sojourn.
With ingenuity and mindfulness, we can find ways to stand up and move. All it takes is a shift in thinking, being and willingness to make a change. Bottom line, if you are sitting for more than one hour that is too long.
Try building up your computer height with books or perhaps a trashcan getting you on your feet. You will find, even though you are “just standing,” you will be shifting your weight from foot to foot and moving about. Always stand up to talk on the phone or take “walking meetings” at work. Better yet, place your desk over a treadmill and make your own, “Treadmill Desk.”
My personal favorite solution is the personal fitness tracker, which can be a vital part of motivation on a daily basis. For instant, setting a daily goal of 10,000 steps could be the first step in reducing sitting and encouraging standing and moving. You just might find yourself “marching” at your desk to make your daily goal.