Your chair is killing you

Life & Style Weekend - - YOU - with Hamish McMichael

PRO­LONGED sit­ting has a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on your health. It pro­motes weight gain, Type 2 di­a­betes and dozens of chronic dis­eases. Some re­searchers are even stat­ing that sit­ting is the new smok­ing.

Dr James Levine from the Mayo Clinic showed that for ev­ery hour you sit down, your life ex­pectancy de­creases by two hours. In com­par­i­son, sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis shows that smok­ing a ci­garette re­duces your life ex­pectancy by 11 min­utes. So, in some re­spects, pro­longed sit­ting may be ac­tu­ally be worse than smok­ing.

If you think that be­cause you go to the gym and have an ex­er­cise pro­gram you’re cov­ered, you’re wrong. We have a new cat­e­gory of ac­tive seden­tary peo­ple, who are fit due to their ex­er­cise pro­grams but are at risk of health prob­lems be­cause they sit for the rest of the day. The fact is that one hour of ex­er­cise can’t com­bat the ef­fects of 10 hours of sit­ting.

How­ever, I do be­lieve that a well-de­signed high-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise pro­gram is an im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent for a healthy life­style. Con­sid­er­ing that 70% of Aus­tralians don’t en­gage in vig­or­ous ex­er­cise at all and spend most of their day sit­ting, per­haps it’s more re­al­is­tic to just start get­ting any form of move­ment into their daily rou­tines.

Be­fore you go and hurl your of­fice chair out the win­dow, a vi­tal fact is that it’s not the to­tal amount of time we spend sit­ting that’s the prob­lem, it’s how of­ten you break up sit­ting.

Let me ex­plain this fur­ther. Stand­ing up 20 times a day is an an­ti­dote to pro­longed sit­ting. Stand­ing up 20 times in a row all at once does not give you the same ben­e­fits of stand­ing up once ev­ery 20 min­utes for seven hours. Walk­ing for two min­utes ev­ery 20 min­utes of sit­ting is even more ef­fec­tive.

Sit­ting still for long pe­ri­ods ap­pears to age cells faster. In a Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia study, seden­tary women who sat for more than 10 hours a day and had less than 40 min­utes of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity showed cell age that was ac­cel­er­ated by eight years com­pared to their more ac­tive col­leagues. Sit­ting even ages our DNA – we are born to move, not sit on our butts.

So what can you do?

Stand up ev­ery 20 min­utes – set a timer on your com­puter/phone if you need to.

Don’t sit for more than 50 min­utes ev­ery hour – stand, walk or do ex­er­cises as al­ter­na­tives.

Walk ev­ery day. Aim for 10,000 steps a day – you can use a fit­ness tracker or pe­dome­ter to mea­sure this. This is an ad­di­tion to your fit­ness rou­tine.

Add walk­ing into your work tasks. For ex­am­ple, walk and talk on your phone, have walk­ing meet­ings.

Trial a stand­ing work­sta­tion.

While an ex­er­cise pro­gram is im­por­tant for a healthy life­style, this works best when added to an ac­tive life­style.

Visit Hamish at Kaizen Ex­er­cise Phys­i­ol­o­gists, 2/47 Sixth Ave, Ma­roochy­dore, and get your wellness on track.

PHOTO: ERIC BAI­LEY

Some re­searchers claim that sit­ting is the new smok­ing.

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