Did you know that sitting can kill you? This is not something I want to hear as I prepare for a two-week, marathon writing adventure, and is probably not encouraging to anyone who works in an office.
My mistake was in opening the May 20 issue of “The New Yorker” (while sitting down). Author Susan Orlean boasts of writing, paying her bills and answering emails while walking one to two miles per hour at her treadmill desk. She invested in this piece of office furniture after reading the research done by Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, which shows that when you’re sitting, “your metabolic rate drops to about one calorie a minute — just slightly higher than if you were dead.” I slump down in my chair and continue reading.
Even more discouraging is that inactivity can lead to “cardiovascular problems, certain kinds of cancer, depression, deep-vein thrombosis, and type-2 diabetes.” This won’t happen to me, I think. I’m feeling smug because most days I exercise on the elliptical machine at the Y. I hang on to this conceit until I get to the following quote: “…hard exercise for an hour a day may not cancel the damage done by sitting for six hours.” I slump even lower. Depression has already set in, not as a result of my sedentary lifestyle but from reading this article.
The experts say that standing is better than sitting even if you’re not moving around in space, although it is not a substitute for physical activity. A piece in the British newspaper, “The Independent,” quotes diabetes researcher Joseph Henson as saying, “When a person is standing still they are using their muscles more than when they are sitting still.”
In an article in WebMD, Dr. Levine says, “We know that as soon as somebody gets out of their chair, their blood sugar improves, their blood cholesterol and triglycerides improve, and that’s very consistent.”
What’s the solution to becoming more active while you work other than dragging a piece of heavy equipment into your home office? The only one I can come up with is to stand while I’m at the computer. I’ve set my laptop on top of a ginormous dictionary which rests on my kitchen island. While I’m working I often take breaks and move around the kitchen, head to the cupboard where we keep the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bars and to the stove to put on the teakettle, even though the articles I read make no mention of these as health-improving activities.
Perhaps the best thing I can do for my blood sugar and cholesterol is to stop reading.