Sitting at Your Desk Could Be Lethal

Apr 19, 2011
Outside Magazine

Sitting down might be shortening your life and adding inches to your waistline, according to an article in the New York Times. The study, performed by Mao Clinic researcher James Levine, attempted to answer the question: why do some people, who consume the same amount of food as others gain weight, and some don't? Subjects donned "smart underwear" to calculated each minute spent lying, standing and sitting.

"The people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more,” Dr. Jensen, a Mao Clinic collaborator told the New York Times.

This isn't to be confused with exercising more--that was prohibited by the study--but the simple step of taking extra trips to the water cooler, a stroll around the block on a coffee break, or standing at their desk let subjects stave off the additional weight gain. Overall these little moments added up to two hours of movement weight-gaining subjects spent inactive.

It doesn't take much to add movement to your day: the underwear even showed a spike in energy output when subjects bent over and tied their shoes.

The sedentary aspect of a daily life spent in front of computers and televisions affects more than just weight gain. “The muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Marc Hamilton, an inactivity researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, says.This decrease in stimulation causes your calorie buring rate to plummit (to one calorie per minute) and inhibits the enzymes that break down fat in the bloodstream. All together, these biological effects combine to increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

This conclusion differes from traditional understandings of obesity and weight gain that assume aerobic exercise and proper dietary requirements are sufficient stimuli to stave off harmful health risks. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”

Clearly those subjects with active jobs outside scored the highest in Levine's study. But even office-going folks can increase their activity by standing while on the phone, sitting on a medicine ball at work, or even trying a treadmill desk. The movement just might save your life.


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