There has been much written over the past five decades on the benefits of exercise to counter the effects of modern, industrial Western society. But only in the past decade or so has much attention been spent looking at the detriments of this modern life we live. That is, the science of sedentariness is only now taking off, and the results are damning.
Despite a recent article in WaPo that discusses the results of a study reported in the International Journal of Epidemiology
(http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/10/09/ije.dyv191.full ), the controversy is nuanced at best, fatal at worst.
When I lecture for Exercise ETC to other professionals in the fitness world, I often add up for their understanding how much we actually sit in our culture: at breakfast, then the car or bus, then school or work, then the ride home, then dinner, then TV or homework or reading…then it’s bed time. Whew! What an exhausting day!!!!
My guess is most Americans sit over 12 hours/day. A recent study estimates we are sedentary about 70% of the day. We sleep (or at least lie in bed trying) for 7. That leaves maybe 5 hours for getting up and moving around, with an unremarkable 10-15% of us going to the gym or going outside to exercise for an hour or so.
In other words, as a culture and a community, we are sitting around committing slow suicide.
The WaPo article noted, and here’s the nuance, that “sitting is not associated with an increased risk of dying… [and that it] is no worse than standing for a person who doesn’t otherwise move his or her body.” The authors of the study wrote, “Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself… Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.”
In other words, sitting equals standing around not moving…when it comes to mortality.
However, when it comes to health, or morbidity, sitting loses to standing around. Several studies have shown various amounts of standing per unit time of sitting (some do 2 mins per hour of sitting, others 2 mins per 20 mins of sitting, etc.) has detrimental effects on blood sugar control and on vascular adaptability, a gauge of cardiovascular health. Furthermore, those who sit more tend to be more overweight/obese. And a recent study in MSSE showed that older men fall more who walk less.
(Caveat: older men who walk more than 9000 steps/day also tend to fall more…because they are vertical more and because, being fitter, they tend to take on activities that are more challenging.)
Ultimately, the authors concede that sitting is correlated with higher degrees of morbidity but are still firm in standing behind being vertical more: “The results of this study suggest that policy makers should be cautious about recommending sitting reductions without also recommending increases in physical activity.”
Which is another way of saying, GET OFF YOUR A** and MOVE MORE!