Standing vs. sitting
Yesterday I ditched the sit-down desk. My hip flexors felt tight. They’d been feeling tighter and tighter. On long flights they burn a little. It bothered me, but I didn’t think a lot about it. Then I learned the truth about sitting. Holy shit. We’re just plain not meant to sit all day. But as a culture we increasingly do. A Dutch study suggests that people in the 1800s walked between three and eight more miles per day than we do today. The upshot is that our sedentary lifestyles are screwing up some of the basic stuff that makes us happy — especially stuff that makes people in Boulder happy, like how athletic we are, how we look ad what kinds of people we become in old age. A recent article in Men’s health offered up an incredible, very scary look at the consequences of being sedentary. Whole article here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39523298/ns/health-mens_health. Here are some excerpts:
Sitting affects an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL). LPL’s main responsibility is to break down fat in the bloodstream to use as energy. If if you don’t have this enzyme, or if the enzyme doesn’t work, fat is stored instead of burned as fuel. Hamilton discovered that when rodents were forced to lie down for most of their waking hours, LPL activity plummeted. But when they simply stood around most of the time, LPL was 10 times more active. Translation: you get fatter faster if you sit versus standing. What’s more, sitting has serious effects on long-term health. In a British study published in 1953, scientists examined two groups of workers: bus drivers and trolley conductors. At first glance, the two occupations appeared to be pretty similar. But while the bus drivers were more likely to sit down for their entire day, the trolley conductors were running up and down the stairs and aisles of the double-decker trolleys. Turned out bus drivers were nearly twice as likely to die of heart disease.
A 2010 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that when healthy men limited their number of footsteps by 85 percent for 2 weeks, they experienced a 17 percent decrease in insulin sensitivity, raising their diabetes risk. For me, the real kicker was the author’s redefinition of an “active” life. I consider myself active. I get to the gym most days, run regularly. But in a 2007 report, University of Missouri scientists said that people with the highest levels of nonexercise activity (but little to no actual “exercise”) burned significantly more calories a week than those who ran 35 miles a week but accumulated only a moderate amount of nonexercise activity. “The average person,” she concluded, “could never do enough to counteract the effect of hours and hours of chair time.”
That’s in part because fascia, the connective tissue that covers muscles, tends to “set” in the position your muscles are in most often. So if you sit most of the time, your fascia adapts to that specific position. Now think about where your hips and thighs are in relation to your torso while you’re sitting. They’re bent, which causes the muscles on the front of your thighs, known as hip flexors, to contract slightly, or shorten. The more you sit, the more the fascia will keep your hip flexors shortened. There’s yet another problem with all that sitting. “If you spend too much time in a chair, your glute muscles will actually ‘forget’ how to fire,” says Hartman. This phenomenon is aptly nicknamed “gluteal amnesia.” Weak glutes as well as tight hip flexors cause your pelvis to tilt forward. This puts stress on your lumbar spine, resulting in lower-back pain. It also pushes your belly out, which gives you a protruding gut even if you don’t have an ounce of fat. The changes to your muscles and posture from sitting are so small that you won’t notice them at first. But as you reach your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, they’ll gradually become worse,” says Hartman, “and a lot harder to fix.”
Oh Gawd. My sit-down desk was a death sentence. Yeah, this one comes with a little bar-height chair, but I don’t use it. Not yet. Next step: gotta start riding the pedal bike into work a couple times a week.