It appears some aspects of the new thinking of improving your health is starting to trickle through to mainstream media… which is fantastic. I do, however, disapprove of language the Press uses such as “the latest fad…” when it comes to standing at your desk as opposed to sitting at it. ‘Fad’ is so derogatory! Anyway, that aside lets look at the positive aspects of ‘fads’ being up front and central in the media
The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper published this article regarding one of their reporters who gave up using a chair for 30 days to see what effect it had on her health. It is a positive article and at the 30 days trial the reporter was a convert to standing.
So: what’s this all about?
Well: In a nutshell mounting research suggests that sitting for extended periods of time is an independent risk factor for poor health and premature death. Even if you are very fit, if you uninterruptedly sit for a great percentage of the time (at your desk!), you are still at an increased risk of dying prematurely. Wow, that is some nutshell!
There have been a number of studies within the last year or two that show that even if you are very fit, exercising as much as five times a week for a half hour to an hour each time, you can fall far short of optimum fitness if you sit most of the rest of the time. You’re even at an increased risk of dying prematurely.
Dr. Joan Vernikos, a former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, presents a powerful scientific explanation for why sitting has such a dramatic impact on your health. Her research with astronauts clarified why this happens and, even more importantly, provides us with a simple regime that could help counteract those consequences.
In order to determine why regular exercise does not appear to compensate for the negative effects of prolonged sitting, some of her research focused on finding out what type of movement is withdrawn by sitting. What Dr Vernikos discovered was as revolutionary as it was counterintuitive. Not only did she discover that the act of standing up is more effective than walking for counteracting the ill effects of sitting, the key is how many times you stand up!
Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down… every 20 minutes
It’s the change in posture that has the most beneficial impact on your health, not the act of standing itself. The key is frequent intermittent interactions with gravity. Standing up once every 20 minutes is more beneficial than standing up 35 times all at once.
“We were designed to squat. We were designed to kneel. Sitting is okay, but it’s uninterrupted sitting that is bad for us,” Dr. Vernikos says.
What all this means is that rather than getting hung up on a once-a-day exercise routine you need to make sure you’re engaging in more or less perpetual non-exercise movement. You then want to add structured exercise on top of that to reap all the benefits associated with exercise; exercises such as high intensity interval cardio and strength training.
Going to the gym a few times a week for an hour simply isn’t going to counteract hours upon hours of chronic uninterrupted sitting.
In the end, it’s really all about structuring your life to incorporate everyday body movements. Think about it… if you didn’t have a phone, computer or a smart phone, what would you have to do to get that message to a friend or colleague?
When it comes to interrupting your sitting, you want to stand up around 35 times a day or so to counteract the cardiovascular health risks associated with sitting.
- Standing up once every hour is more effective than walking on a treadmill for 15 minutes for cardiovascular and metabolic changes;
- Sitting down and standing up repeatedly for 32 minutes does NOT have the same effect as standing up once, 32 times over the course of a day. To get the benefit, movement must be spread throughout the day.
It’s Never Too Late to Start
The human body is dynamic and changeable. You can reverse damage already incurred, and it’s never too late to start. That is a massively important fact that you want to embrace in all aspects of getting after your health. Your body CAN recover from the damage you have likely been inflicting on it for decades.
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