Get Off Your Butts

2014 Health November 2014 Suzanne A. Marshall

By Suzanne A. Marshall from the November 2014 Edition

Yep. That’s the latest ground breaking health advice. Just stand up! I say, if it’s that easy maybe we should do it more! Many of us have crawled through a number of knotholes backwards anyway, such as quitting smoking; getting off sugar and carbohydrates; cutting the fat; lowering our cholesterol; dragging our butts to the gym or bouncing around in front of the TV; hitting the treadmill or going for a run; embracing yoga or perhaps some transcendental meditation; popped our vitamins and restricted our booze (at least a little); and last but never least, mindfully watched every mouthful of food we used to enjoy eating with reckless abandon. I say sure, I can stand up through most of these things! No problem.

Seriously though, there are now studies that make a strong correlation between long periods of sitting and an elevated risk of mortality. It’s literally called ‘sitting disease’. Here are the key findings as published on

Key Findings:

o At their 2013 annual meeting, the American Medical Association adopted a policy recognizing the potential risks of prolonged sitting and encouraging employers, employees and others to make available alternatives to sitting such as sit-stand desks.

o A 2011 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that when workers are equipped with sit-stand workstations, prolonged sitting is reduced and mood states improve.

o A 2010 study by researchers from the American Cancer Society and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, suggests that people who sit for long periods during their leisure time have an increased risk of disease and a shorter average life span.

o A 2009 University of Queensland study found that even when adults meet physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged periods can compromise metabolic health.

I have personally noted that we see more people standing for work these days such as at computers in kiosks or trying the various fads as alternatives for chairs such as the big balls designed to sit on but which move muscles randomly while balancing. Perhaps part of the problem may also be that when we sit for long periods at leisure such as watching TV the tendency is also to snack and munch on even more calories that we are not burning off through motion. (Guilty as charged)

Guess how many hours a day you spend sitting? Many of us spend up to 12 hours a day sitting in front of computers, watching television etc.. If you add in 7 hours a day for sleeping (not enough for me) then we are sedentary for a mind-boggling 19 hours a day at least. Making matters even worse, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to keep your glucose levels in check from the eating or calories we consume. Your body deals with this job much more efficiently if we are physically active. This fact no doubt contributes to the growing epidemic of diabetes type 2.

Here is another interesting tidbit! We burn more calories when we are standing. Based on the heart rates of some volunteers who agreed to stand at work for a few weeks during the study, there was evidence through heart rate monitors that they were burning about 50 calories more per hour. If we do the math on say three hours of standing for five days, that is about 750 calories. Over the course of a year it would add up to about 30,000 extra calories, or around 8lbs of fat!

It is far better to ‘putter’ in your retirement for example than to spend more time sitting. If you like to garden, complete odd jobs, household chores and plod up and down a set of stairs in your home regularly, this is far healthier than we would have thought. But it must be clear that this type of movement does not replace the recommended guidelines of 30 minutes, six days a week of aerobic type activity that elevates the heart rate for at least twenty minutes. So we still need to take a walk, go for a short run, lift weights, or whatever activity that will get the job done. When my back was bothering me a while ago I even tried chair yoga which I thoroughly enjoyed. Though not as strenuous, you must concentrate on deep breathing while moving. I found it on a DVD that I keep handy.

So as I write this article sitting at my home computer and contemplate stretching out on the sofa to finish another novel, the guilt is slowly building up and I feel the need to get off my butt, grab the broom and head outside to sweep up the never-ending deluge of leaves as the autumn season draws to a close. I checked my calorie burning app on my IPhone. I just burned over 300 calories for the sweeping which took 55 minutes in the lovely fresh air. (Hmmm, what snack can I swap this for?)

In a couple of weeks we will be winging our way south to Manzanillo where we can walk the breezy beaches, swim, dance to the music of Los TallBoys and start looking for a local bar at which we can stand and enjoy our coolers!

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