30 August 2011


Recent studies reported in the NYTimes conclude that the current paradigm for a healthy lifestyle in in complete ~ i.e., if you eat nutritious foods and exercise regularly, you will avoid joining the epidemic of overweight and obese people in America. There is an additional component which affects our caloric balance ~ sitting. How many hours per day each of us sits (whether at work or at home), and the amount of movement we unconsciously perform while in repose, play a significant role in whether or not the diet/exercise balance results in having a toned body, not to mention a role in how many years we may add or subtract from our lifespan.

Curious, but it makes sense. A series of rigorously-controlled studies at the Mayo Clinic examined the question "Why do some people who consume the same amount of food as others gain more weight?" For reasons metabolic or neurological, the answer appears to be that those who don't gain weight are simply moving around more (apart from formal exercise). They spent less time sitting. Here's how one of the researchers described it ~ "This is your body on chairs: electrical activity in the muscles drops .... leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of becoming obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.

" .... Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. Excessive sitting is a lethal activity" .... The death rate among sedentary men may rise as much as 20 percent. The death rate among sedentary women may rise as much as 40 percent.

"The good news is that inactivity's perils can be countered .... [researchers James Levine is] exploring ways for people to redesign their environments so they encourage more movement .... His is a war against inertia itself, which he believes sickens more than just our body. 'Go into cubeland in a tightly controlled corporate environment and you immediately sense that there is a malaise about being tied behind a computer screen seated all day. The soul of the nation is sapped, and now it's time for the soul of the nation to rise."

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go do some stretches and take a walk. Rise and shine.

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