If you haven’t gotten on the train to Standingdeskville, a recent study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise includes results that might help you punch your ticket. Using data from NHANES (the US Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), Gennuso et al found that participants who sat the most hours every day had greater odds of elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, a poor cholesterol profile, and higher levels of body-wide inflammation, regardless of how much exercise those individuals got during the day. Essentially, it didn’t matter if you ran marathons or walked on a treadmill before work, if you went to the office and sat for 8 hours, then sat for 3-4 hours at home after dinner watching the telly, you had higher levels of the bio-markers that indicate overall health.
Another study, published in 2012 by the British Journal of Sports Medicine examined the role of sitting time for overall health and longevity, using data from Australia. Those results, by Veerman et al concluded that every hour of sitting time after the age of 25 reduced an individual’s life expectancy by 22 minutes. In the grand scheme of things, 22 minutes over the course of a life time isn’t that much. Until you think you about how much time we spend sitting: commuting to work, playing video games, reading the paper, eating meals, out drinking with friends, at our kids’ soccer games or swim lessons. It adds up. Veerman et al estimated that watching television for 6 or more hours a day decreased life expectancy of typical adults by five years, even if the individual met the standard medical guidelines of 30 min of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. The moral of the story: sitting on our bums at night and during the weekend is killing us. Literally. Killing us.
Obviously, we care about this at the SSRC because we want everyone to be fit and active and healthy. But we also understand that it’s easier to be academically productive when you are fit and active and healthy. We offer some other suggestions for getting more physical activity:
-Wear a pedometer. Between the Nike Fuel Band, the Fitbit, the Basis, and the Jawbone, there are a variety of ways that one could easily and seamlessly track one’s physical activity. If you decide to go the Fitbit route, you could friend SSRC methodologist Jessi Bishop-Royse. She enjoys heckling Fitbit friends. If you insist on having non-app options, Amazon has a plethora of options.
-Recognize that for some people, some tasks are better suited for seated concentration (data analysis, writing) whereas other tasks do not require that level of commitment (like answering emails, talking on the phone).
-Instead of having meetings around a conference table in a conference room, start having walking meetings. SSRC staff has reported this to be preferable to traditional meetings, particularly when the weather is joyous.
-Set an calendar item to remind yourself to move. Even if it is only walking across the street for coffee, you are getting out of your chair.
-Exit or board public transit a stop early or a stop later than you would normally. This gives you a few extra minutes of walking prior to arriving at your destination, and no one ever died from 5-15 minutes of extra walking.
-Use commercial time wisely; use those breaks to handle mundane household tasks (like laundry or dusting).
-If your residence is spotless and sparkling, you could try doing physical fitness challenges during your favorite programming. For example, while enjoying The Walking Dead on AMC, one could participate in this challenge.