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Sit for long at your peril

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Get up and move, before your chair kills you

When you spend hours sitting in front of the computer reading or working and then relax later at home in front of television bingewatching Netflix, do you realise the amount of time your body remains immobile?

In fact, till you shut down your computer and get up, you would not have realised how hungry you are, how your muscles ache or that you badly needed a bathroom break.

Even if you are someone who eats healthy most of the time and hits the gym regularly, prolonged periods of sitting and inactivity affects your body in many ways, even down to the molecular level, raising the risk of chronic diseases, according to experts.

A study of 1.2 million people from 54 countries showed that the sitting-related all-cause mortality rate was 3.8%. The latest issue of the American Journal of Public Health suggests that prolonged sitting increases the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by 10-20%. Excessive sitting is a lethal activity and so get up and move, before your chair kills you.

James Levine, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, had been doing a series of experiments since early 2000 to understand why some people put on more weight than some others even when they all ate the very same food in the same amount.

Dr. Levine later said that he had hoped to discover some magic metabolic factor which made some people put on weight.

But what he discovered was that the people who did not gain weight were the ones who were moving frequently and unconsciously. They were either taking the stairs or running to catch a bus or busy doing household chores and generally, moving around more.

The NEAT factor

In fact, they benefited from the non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). NEAT is the energy expended for everything one does when one is not sleeping or exercising – even bending down to pick up a paper or getting up to get a cup of coffee. Every little movement counts and the more your NEAT, fitter you are.

Low NEAT is linked to diabetes, heart diseases and cancer.

New smoking

Dr. Levine coined the tag line, “Sitting is the new smoking”, in his acclaimed book, Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, published in 2014.

People should understand that while exercise benefits one, it cannot counteract the effects of what happens when the body is inactive for long hours.

When you sit for long hours without moving your muscles, “the 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, insulin effectiveness drops, the enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides and clearing it out of the blood stream plunges, leading to a drop in the levels of the good cholesterol, HDL... all of which raises the risk of diabetes and heart diseases” according to a researcher in NewYork Times.

Long, uninterrupted hours in front of a computer could also stress the neck and shoulders and cause stiffness in the hip flexors.

That said, the desk-bound can take heart in the latest research studies, which say that while sitting is not good for your heart, not all sitting are equal!

A new study from the University of Central Florida, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, which studied the lifestyle and health patterns of 3,600 individuals over eight years, says that it is slouching in front of television without moving at all and not sitting desk-bound which is risky. Possibly because TV-watching is linked with other bad habits like snacking and alcohol consumption, apart from disruptions in sleep patterns, which is directly linked to heart diseases.

Walk to coffee machine

Not all of us can be lucky to have an ‘active” workplace, so the best thing to do would be to redesign the way one works so that more movement is encouraged. You could get up and walk to the water dispenser or coffee machine or walk while talking on phone.

Get up and walk over to your colleague in the next booth rather than call him/her on the intercom. Set a reminder every half hour when you can get up and do a stretch.

Take stairs instead of the lift and park your vehicle farthest from the office entrance.

Even if your job calls for more sitting, make sure you move more and often.

C. Maya

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 10:10:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/sit-for-long-at-your-peril/article30569851.ece

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