December 13, 2010. Let’s say you exercise for an hour a day. What are you doing the other 15 hours you’re awake?
Turns out this is more important than you might think. If you spend too many of those hours sitting, you’ll have significantly higher risk of “cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome risk factors, and obesity … because any type of brief, yet frequent, muscular contraction throughout the day may be necessary to short-circuit unhealthy molecular signals [from prolonged sitting] causing metabolic diseases.” American Diabetes Association, “Role of Low Energy Expenditure and Sitting in Obesity”.
Even if you exercise vigorously for an hour – five days a week – too much sitting still significantly increases your risk of all those things you exercise to avoid.
So get up. Pace. Fidget. Or do a little bit more, and do it deliberately throughout your day. Every day. Whether you’re on your butt staring at a computer monitor or a TV, you gotta shake your thing every once in a while. Getting up to go to the bathroom between commercials counts.
But for something you can do right at your desk or near your couch, here’s another in our Don’t Just Sit There program. Sitting there – without a chair.
Do this at home during the Seinfeld rerun. Do it at the office whenever you can get away with it. You can do it in seconds. Not minutes. Seconds. You can get away with this. Press Play and watch me do it. Or read what I say in the video:
Stand up with your feet spread far apart: wider than your shoulders. Bend forward slightly at your waist. Then, slowly, bend your knees and begin to sit down and back. Keep your butt back; don’t let your knees extend further forward than your toes. If you can, get down far enough so that your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. But if you begin to feel pain in your knees on the way down, stop there.
Wherever you stop, hold it there for two or three seconds. Then stand up; and, squat down again. Do this five or ten times. Or as many times as you can.
You’ll feel this in your quadriceps and gluteus muscles. It’s a good strengthening exercise. But most important, it gets you moving, not sitting. And it gets you to contract those large leg muscle groups.
Want to do something while you’re in a chair: seated leg extensions.
It’s Always Something
Just when you think you’ve got it all taken care of with your 30 minutes a day of exercise, they tell you this:
“Lean and obese people stand and ambulate ~9 and ~6.5 h/day, respectively. Supporting the mass of the body in combination with spontaneous movement or very slow ambulation (1 mph) raises whole-body energy expenditure 2.5-fold more than when seated still. Nonexercise movements decrease significantly as people age and become more sedentary. Thus, given the small differences in daily energy balance necessary to explain weight gain over many years, it is plausible that postural allocation [translation: whether you’re standing or sitting] plays a role in human obesity.”
Studies at the molecular level found that “the expression of many genes were “switched on” and dozens of genes “switched off” during local contractile inactivity in postural muscles in the leg.” Turns out that prolonged sitting affects “regulation of skeletal muscle lipoprotein lipase (LPL) (a protein important for controlling plasma triglyceride catabolism, HDL cholesterol, and other metabolic risk factors).” And it affects it in ways that put you at risk:
“Middle-aged men who had to sit many more hours per week and obtain less physical activity had greater risk for premature myocardial infarction [heart attack] and mortality from coronary artery disease. These general findings were subsequently confirmed in studies in middle-aged women and an elderly group.”
All of the above quotes are from the American Diabetes Association, “Role of Low Energy Expenditure and Sitting in Obesity”.