Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

MONTH 1: Life Without SITTING

By SARAH ELLIOTT

 

SEPTEMBER 13, 2013— Have you heard the news? Sitting is the new smoking.

Isn’t that just great? That means since technology has taken over our lives and most of us are required to sit all day at a desk and computer, we have been an experiment, and the result is our health is failing due to sitting.

But it’s okay. I work out… a lot… almost every day.

Doesn’t matter, say the experts. Study after study has linked time spent on your rear end to diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer, and early death.

Scientists suspect that the longer the large muscles of the legs and trunk stay immobile, the more harmful blood fats and sugar build up in the bloodstream. Prolonged sitting also reduces circulation to the brain, diminishing creativity and mood.

Numerous processes of the musculoskeletal system are negatively affected by sitting: back muscles weaken, chest muscles tighten, the spinal ligaments loosen, the glute muscles atrophy, blood fats increase, and the hip flexors stiffen.

That’s right. No amount of exercise can offset the time spent sitting.

Let’s see. I’ve had full-time jobs that have required desk bondage since I was 26 years old. For the past 18 years, I have worked full-time on this newspaper, regularly putting in several 10 to 12-hour days each week and sometimes working at my desk seven days a week. That can’t be good.

In fact, I knew it wasn’t good. But I thought I was offsetting the sitting with daily physical activity. Turns out, that’s not good enough.

A growing body of research shows that people who spend many hours of the day glued to a seat — commuting, deskbound, TV-watching — die at an earlier age than those who sit less, even if those sitters exercise. It is still possible to be in the sedentary category even if meeting the current physical activity guidelines of exercising 60 minutes a day, three or four times a week.

It’s just like smoking. Smoking is going to kill you even if you exercise. So is sitting.

That’s why I have given up sitting. I made a monetary investment in this endeavor by purchasing an adjustable workstation. It allows me to work while standing or sitting as the entire work surface moves up and down with me as needed.

I’m into my second week of standing while I work. Each day, I am able to stand for longer and longer periods of time. At the end of my workday, when I leave my home office and take a well-earned sit break, it is a reward to collapse into a chair.

This week, I had a doctor’s appointment, and the receptionist who checked me in told me to “go ahead and have a seat.” I obeyed her, then remembered my mission to sit less.

I got up, went to the large open space in the room, and paced back and forth while getting some work done on my iPad. In the exam room, I stood while waiting for the doctor. Waiting to get my hair cut, I stood. Cumulatively during those two appointments, I eliminated an hour-and-a-half of sitting.

Sitting has become the norm in our society. But I, for one, will not be sitting much this month. This is a habit that I intend to keep long after September has passed.

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