Thanks to Chris at Conditioning Research for bringing this to my attention. The dangers associated with prolonged sitting is an important subject that we should not overlook. It was discussed here on Physical Living in an article from early 2010: Too Much Sitting = Too Bad For Your Health.
Have a looksie at the morbid infographic…
Note: info-graphic source here.
OK, some of the claims are a little hyped up, and we all know the common flaws associated with research and the reporting thereof, but the fact remains that prolonged sitting has some pretty steep consequences whether they’re accurately quantifiable or not. I mean, come on, calorie burning doesn’t drop to 1 per minute for ALL seated people. There are way too many variables involved to make a definitive statement like that. And really, for every hour that you watch TV, your risk of death increases 11%? 11%! That ought to make a great headline in the news, but I’m guessing they’re drawing an absolute conclusion from some isolated test results.
All of this research can appear bleak and over-whelming, but it isn’t doomsday, and there are ways to deal with the situation. We’re not doomed!
So, how do we solve the problem, or if you like the dramatic shtick, how do you get out of your chair alive?
Well, I completely agree with the notion that the 30 minutes of recommended daily activity is not enough (not even close!), and that it’s best to interrupt sitting sessions with movement of some sort as frequently as possible. Although, what they suggest you do during those breaks aren’t necessarily the solutions I’d recommend… Ahem… I mean, come on, marching in place. Seriously?
OK, here I am “marching in place” to combat the dangers of sitting and lower my chance of dying in the next 15 years by 40%.
Let me know how that works out for you!
All kidding aside, you don’t need to become an anti-sitting space cadet to deal with the sitting predicament, and there are much more enjoyable [AND BETTER] options available (like the ones towards the end of this article). But in the end, it shouldn’t be an issue of WHAT to do, but HOW to do it. We know exactly what needs to be done. We know that sitting on our butts all the time is a major problem, and we know that physical activity is the solution. We’ve known it all along! It doesn’t matter whether that activity is walking, tennis, or water polo. The point is that we need to do it!
Now, this is easier said than done. Sure, there are standing desks and wobble boards, and some people walk on the treadmill while they watch TV, but these are novel solutions that – while helpful – ignore the real problem, which is a disconnection from our true nature. What we really need is to find meaning in how we live our lives – in every little thing we do.
This is what Frank Forencich has been saying for years, and especially in his books Exuberant Animal and Change Your Body, Change The World. He actually just touched on this issue earlier this week with one rule he has for himself: whenever there are stairs, he will take them instead of an elevator or escalator. For Frank and myself, these types of decisions to rebel against the norm are not an issue of burning a few more calories or any other trivial health issue, but it’s an issue of personal identity.
This reminds me of a quote from Bill Bowerman who was a track and field coach at Oregon University and is the founder of Nike shoes. Bowerman was played by Donald Sutherland in the movie Without Limits, where he said to his new team of track and field athletes:
“Men of Oregon, I invite you to become students of your events. Running, one might say, is basically an absurd past-time upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning, in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you will be able to find meaning in another absurd past-time: life.”
– Bill Bowerman
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P.S. Also, the suggestion to sit at a 135 degree angle is interesting. I’m confident this would indeed result in less strain on the back than a forward or vertical posture. Although, it’ll definitely put more strain on your neck from the exaggerated forward lean, which I see they failed to mention in their alarmingly specific infographic. I’d be interested in seeing more research on the topic of seated posture.