Ignoring your parents, and other ways to save your life

by John Wilford

 

“Don’t do that”

“Put that down”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full”

 Familiar ‘instructions’ heard by kids, of all ages.  Now the truly disgusting ones…

 “Sit down!”

“Sit still!”

 Mum, you got it so wrong.

 If you are reading this sitting down, please, get up. Standing comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

 Sitting is killing us.  It has become a ‘goto’ topic for the BBC on slow news days, and a recent article on the Harvard Business Review blog condemns sitting as our generation’s smoking.  There is an increasing body of evidence, generated by clever academic types on both sides of the Atlantic, showing just how bad sitting is for us.

Research in the USA shows people spending more time sitting (9.3 hours per day) than asleep (7.7 hours).  Like it or not, the UK is in the same ballpark.

Add up the time spent sat at your desk, in the library, in lectures, seminars, meetings and tutorials.  Time spent sat in the car or on the bus. Then there’s ‘leisure sitting’ – watching TV, at the computer or games console.  Sitting, just sitting. Oh, sit.

Further research suggests that if you sit for more than 6 hours a day, you are 40% more likely to die within the next 15 years than someone sitting for just 3 hours.  The bombshell is that this is true even if you exercise. Sedentary behaviour (sitting/lying whilst awake) is not just a lack of physical activity; it’s bad in its own right. As soon as you sit down, your leg muscles switch off, calorie burn drops to 1 per minute and after 2 hours your ‘good cholesterol’ has dropped 20%.  Whether you are an exerciser or not.  Higher rates of sedentary behaviour correlate with greater risk of mortality, independent of levels of physical activity. 

Sitting is a habit – and a bad one.  Like smoking, or biting your nails (Sorry Mum…).  It’s automatic and easy.  But it is a habit that can be broken. 

Look at what makes you sit, and where and when you could do without it.  On the phone? Stand up.  Having a short meeting? Ignore the chairs. On the laptop? Raise it up and stand (use window sills, cabinets, even the ironing board). This is before we even get to walking more – park your car further away from destination, take the stairs not the lift, etc etc…..

Yes, there are times that you will need to sit.  But limit it.  Get up and move around frequently. Swap standing and moving for sitting wherever possible.

 

Take a stand against sitting – sit less, move more.