All your sitting is doing you lots of harm

We’ve already highlighted the dangers of sitting too long and too much. And now there’s even more. From the Los Angeles Times:

New research that distills the findings of 47 studies concludes that those of us who sit for long hours raise our average risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death.

Even for those of us who meet recommended daily levels of exercise, sitting for long periods of time boosts our likelihood of declining health.


But even those who punctuate a long day of sitting with a vigorous workout were estimated to be 16% more likely to die of any cause in a given time than were those who do not sit for long.

The studies that formed the basis for such aggregations defined prolonged sitting, as well as high levels of physical activity, quite differently. While one study included participants who spent as little as an hour a day seated, the rest defined prolonged sitting as those who watched television for at least five hours a day on up to those who had more than six and, in one study, more than 11 hours of “sitting time” a day.

And the thing is, is that an hour or so of exercise every day doesn’t seem to make up for this very much. It obviously is healthy and helpful, but the studies suggest that a whole lot of sitting — between a commute, work, watching TV — is a major factor in shortening life and upping the risk of contracting diseases.

Here’s a question to put into this: What about seated meditation? I wonder how that would factor in?

Easiest thing to do, according to researchers, is to get up for a minute to three every half an hour.

Posted by Steve

Don’t just sit there

Not seeing too much Ashtanga-related this week, so we’ll head into the weekend with a little more science.

This time, it’s a doctor offering us some sobering news: sitting is killing us. Here’s more:

We lose two hours of life for every hour we sit, writes Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk. Sitting all day is not natural and to blame for all kinds of ailments, including obesity, he says.

“We have created for ourselves a modern way of living that clashes with the way we’re meant to be,” he writes.

So the obvious answer is to move more, by, for example, taking walks after meals, something Levine writes that he does after every meal.


The science turns on the study of NEAT, or nonexercise activity thermogenesis, the energy expenditure of activity other than sports. It includes dancing, going to work, shoveling snow and taking a walk, Levine writes. So you can imagine a construction worker uses a lot more NEAT calories than a computer programmer in the course of a workday.

“Low NEAT is linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart attacks and cancer,” Levine writes.

In an experiment in which people were overfed by the same amount – 1,000 calories a day – Levine and his colleagues found that some people had a “powerful NEAT switch” that gets them moving to use excess energy.

“Those people who do not have a NEAT switch remain sitting in response to overfeeding and are predisposed to obesity,” he writes.

This caught my eye at the LA Times, I’m sure, because my job has be computer bound. A few of our fellow Yatris, for instance, seemed a bit shocked by my sedentary, eight-hour-a-day job. Yoga teacher, for instance, probably could compete with construction worker for the burning of NEAT calories.

But not all of us have jobs that allow that. And this doctor suggests that 60 to 90 minutes of Ashtanga in the morning may not be enough. (Not to mention you maybe ought to have five minutes of high-energy exercise.)

Is this starting to feel contradictory or competing at all? Is it five minutes of strenuous exercise? Is it about not sitting? What’s the secret?

Well, don’t sit without getting up all day. Don’t forget to do your yoga. (Remember, all this is focused very much on health and physical fitness; we don’t seem to be thinking about other factors much.) Maybe kick up that heart rate a bit more.

And, certainly, don’t eat 1,000 calories a day more than you need.

Posted by Steve

‘The chair is out to kill us’

This seems like perfect news to pass on to a bunch of yogis. And then you — you can choose how to spread it.

A story in the Health section of the Los Angeles Times on Saturday points out the evils of chairs. “Sitting is the new smoking,” is one quote.

Yeah, all you squatting proponents out there are feeling smug. Well, here’s more:

A study published in the journal Diabetologia in November 2012 analyzed the results of 18 studies with a total of nearly 800,000 participants. When comparing people who spent the most time sitting with those who spent the least time, researchers found increases in the risks of diabetes (112%), cardiovascular events (147%), death from cardiovascular causes (90%) and death from all causes (49%).


As evidence, he cites an Australian study published in October 2012 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that compared the two pastimes. Every hour of TV that people watch, presumably while sitting, cuts about 22 minutes from their life span, the study’s authors calculated. By contrast, it’s estimated that smokers shorten their lives by about 11 minutes per cigarette.

So smoke ’em if you got ’em — just do so while standing or, even better, walking.

No, seriously:

Not only is sitting lousy at calorie burning, but it has been shown to suppress the production of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which is essential for turning bad cholesterol into good. Sitting can also lead to insulin resistance and, therefore, trouble metabolizing sugar. All these strikes against it help to explain, at least in part, its association with heart disease and diabetes.

Aha, you’re thinking, but I do plenty of yoga. Well, sure, but:

Is exercise the solution? Suppose you do 100 sit-ups every morning. Can you safely sit back and rest on your laurels the rest of the day? Research says no. Despite the good it does for you in many ways, exercise is not a vaccine against the ills of sitting. Once you burn a bunch of calories, they’re gone, of course. But it doesn’t take long for some of the other beneficial effects of exercise to wear off and the detrimental effects of sitting to set in. For instance, lipase production can go down by 90% within hours, a 2008 study in the journal Diabetes found.

There are other solutions: Put a treadmill in your office. Or engage in “active sitting,” which the Times mentions but doesn’t explain. But I’m guessing yoga balls are involved.

Posted by Steve