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Sitting Down Too Long Is Bad Even If You Exercise 376

Ant tips the week-old news that sitting down too much is not good for you, even if you are otherwise fit. A blog at the LA Times reports a followup from Swedish exercise experts: they propose "establishing a new way of thinking about sedentary behavior. They suggest abolishing 'sedentary behavior' as a synonym for not exercising. Instead, sedentary time should be defined as 'muscular inactivity' to distinguish it from not doing any exercise at all." These experts warn that the excessively sedentary are running serious health risks, irrespective of how much exercise they get when they're not plonked behind a desk or lying on a sofa.
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Sitting Down Too Long Is Bad Even If You Exercise

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  • "5 minutes of break during sedentary work" is a good idea, but how often do we need 5 min breaks before the ill effects fo being "too sedentary" kick in?

  • by XavidX ( 1117783 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:36AM (#30830014)

    Sitting down on the sofa is different then sitting by a computer. Even the activities are different. I would like to see the study geered towards office workers who sit all day.

  • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:40AM (#30830034)

    Secondly, if you are sitting for hours at a desk each day, you are not fit.

    Why not? I have a desk job, and I sit here for ~7 hours a day, but a few months back (for a completely unrelated issue) I wasted four hours in a hospital waiting for tests and results, before the doctor said "I'm worried about your heart rate, it's unusually low, but we can't find anything wrong with you. Do you do much exercise?" "Yes, I cycle fast for half an hour every morning and evening." "Oh. You've got nothing to worry about then, feel free to leave."

    Current advice suggests what I do (cycle to work, sit a lot, cycle home) is sufficient exercise. If the sitting a lot is itself harmful then I'd like to know.

    The study says "Climbing stairs rather than using elevators and escalators, 5 minutes of break during sedentary work, or walking to the store rather than taking the car will be as important as exercise.", which is good to know -- I don't own a car and take the stairs whenever practical anyway, so maybe I should take more breaks at work.

  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:43AM (#30830050)

    The blog misquotes the LA Times article (which originally misquoted the study), and the summary parrots the blog.

    May be a bit of junk science, too, but it's hard to tell since I can't find the original study.

    If the quotes in the corrected LA Times article are accurate, then the researchers are simply full of it. They describe an 46% increased risk of death by all causes, which is patent nonsense. Everyone's risk (unless there's a secret medical facility I can't access) of death from all causes is 100%.

    I'm not saying that there definitely is not a correlation, perhaps even a causal relationship, between sitting for too long in front of the tube and some decrease in life expectancy. However, there may be a step function here where at four hours of sitting the body makes metabolic changes that don't happen at 3.5 (or 2.9, or some such).

    What about sitting at the symphony, ballet, office, or while reading books (or journals)? Why specifically call out the "telly time"? Even then, is there any difference between consistently watching sports (football vs cricket?), drama, comedy (laughter is good for you, remember), game shows, and soaps? Maybe too much passive watching (of any or all TV programming) simply rots some part of your brain and that signals your body to quit wasting time and space.

    What about meal and "euphemism" breaks? How is that figured into the study?

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @07:01AM (#30830156)

    One thing really got stuck in my mind:

    The circulatory system got a heart to pump around the blood.
    But the lymphatic system, hasn’t got a heart. Instead, it relies on the movements of your muscles, to get the immune cells around the body.

    Which makes it pretty clear, that not moving is not very healthy for you.

    I also found, that there are two types of tiredness. The brain one, and the body one.
    Brain-wise I can be completely drained, while still having too much energy in my body, to be able to sleep well.
    Strangely, the opposite is not analogue. Instead, I found that my brain is much fitter in the morning, after being tired, body-wise, the evening before.

    I all in all, making sport, made me come up with better ideas, being able to wrap my head around bigger things, etc. Because I slept better. What really hits it for me, is swimming. You get reeally chilly after it. And sleep like a baby. And in the summer, if nothing else, at least you see some hot girls in bikinis. ;)

    We geeks have a hard time with sports. But I got a little mind-twist for you: How about you see your body as this extremely advanced machine that it is. And you want to tune it, hack it, and keep it running nicely, just like do with your (really much much more primitive computer). Use the same motivation and ways to overcome your previous associations. Remember: You can change your views, whenever you like. Do it for the fun. You don’t have to. But there is this cool thing that you wanna try... ;)

    I should sell stickers, saying “My other computer... is my body!”. ;)

  • by fuzzix ( 700457 ) <> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @08:35AM (#30830604) Journal

    English is not my native language.

    In french we say "Assis dans un fauteuil". This means literaly "sat in an armchair". Sorry for this french-ism.

    Strange... I do sit in a chair, but I sit on a sofa. It's not a French-ism, it's just another of those wonderful quirks of the English language - even native speakers don't get it right a lot of the time.

  • by ethork ( 1188253 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:04AM (#30831232)
    As an anthropologist, I have to say that this is basically a false picture of human development. As far as archaeologists can tell, even the earliest homo sapiens lived in complicated symbolic worlds oriented towards all kinds of social issues and conflicts. At least some anthropologists [] have suggested that hunter-gatherers were basically better off than contemporary workers -- obviously they consumed less, but also, so goes the argument, wanted less and wanted different things than we would want. And at the very least, the image of early homo sapiens living in a world that consisted of nothing but sex and hunger is false: these people lived in radically different symbolic worlds than us, and, if you want to judge by the huge monuments in Stonehenge or Easter Island, obviously put a ton of effort into keeping these worlds in motion. The human brain has always been more than mere instinct and reflex.

    I agree, of course, that we deal with many current problems quite badly, but that seems more like a failure in our collective organization than a failure of our biological circuitry. Suppose we take the people in Haiti who have to dig their loved ones out of collapsed buildings with their bare hands, for lack of heavy equipment to work with. Is that a failure of evolution? No, just a failure of logistics (and politics and economics...) What, exactly, is insightful about complaining about our insufficient evolution in the face of problems that need much more local and immediate solutions?

  • by sonnejw0 ( 1114901 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:06AM (#30831254)
    What obvious bias? It would be a bias if the authors were board members of the YMCA. They're not. That's a perfectly reasonable amount of authors, funded by well known national grant institution. And these claims are far from extraordinary: not using glucose stores (i.e. muscular inactivity) increases your blood glucose? No shit.

    You don't read scientific papers very often, do you?
  • by agentultra ( 1090039 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:09AM (#30831284)

    Working from home, it's natural for me to spend 10+ hours in front of a computer some days. It used to be anyways. It's the exception now; I generally can't stand sitting in front of a computer for more than a couple hours at a time. And more than 8 hours behind the desk? Forget it!

    Three or four years ago I joined a martial arts club. Then when we moved to an office I started cycling to work. Ever since I've become a rather physical geek. I need exercise and often crave it throughout the day. I'm back to working at home again and I can't tell you how important it is.

    We are made of meat after all.

    I'm not a doctor by any stretch, but getting fit and training hard has definitely improved my life and work. I get back pain less often, I can think more clearly (especially after a good workout), and I feel more motivated in the mornings. The only thing I don't like is that programming isn't a physical endeavor.

    Or could it be? Punching bag keyboard anyone?

  • Re:My excuse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:50AM (#30831828)

    A little over a year ago, a month into my first job since graduation, I decided I was long overdue some exercise (I'm 24). I've always been a healthy weight, and I've never had trouble running up stairs, to catch a train, when I'm late, dancing in a nightclub etc, but I'd not done anything more than that since school. I knew that I didn't feel fit and energetic, even if I looked OK.

    I also hate doing exercise for the sake of it. Playing sport for fun is OK, but I wanted something that would force me to do exercise as often as possible. Someone suggested I cycled to work, and lent me their spare bike. This was excellent: an hour's good exercise every day (2×30mins), and it was quicker, cheaper and more reliable than any other way of getting to work -- excellent incentive to continue.

    For the first couple of weeks I was really tired when I got home -- I had only enough energy to cook something and then slob in front of the TV. But after the initial shock I seemed to adjust to it, and felt better in the evenings than I used to. After a month a few people commented that I looked healthier, and I definitely felt healthier.

    For extra exercise I tried cycling to other towns (which has purpose: I can look at tourist stuff, and the countryside is pretty along the way). I also tried cycling to the coast (80km/50miles) but lost the map halfway. I really need a companion if I'm to do it again, it got a bit dull going alone.

  • Re:My excuse (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:59AM (#30831946)

    A good start is to set up an adjustable height desk [].

    Your heart rate remains higher if you remain vertical. And you'll move around a bit more just being in a standing position.

    I wish I could bike to work. Unfortunately, I'd have to go through a couple really shitty neighborhoods. Plus, they take a dim view of riding bicycles on the "freeway" or "highway" around here, and half of them don't have frontage roads.

  • Tarahumara Indians (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xaedalus ( 1192463 ) <[Xaedalys] [at] []> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:24PM (#30833300)
    They're the ones who can outrun a horse (in distance only) and can run up to fifty miles a day, if not more. Men's Health did an article on them about three years back or so? Unbelievable fuckers. Only thing is, they eat and drink a grain/vegetable mash, and that's ALL they eat and drink (for kicks, they ferment it).
  • I'm fidgety (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OldSoldier ( 168889 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:40PM (#30833582)

    I'm more fidgety than my co-workers (but less fidgety than some I know who regularly wear out chairs). I used to think this behavior was good for my back... but now it seems it may also be good for my heart?

  • Re:My excuse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @01:16PM (#30834146) Homepage Journal
    I started running after I got my first cubicle jockey job. Thirty minutes of pushing myself hard after work every day and ten minutes of stretching before and after. This qualifies as the 'exercise you tack on the end of your day' category, but I feel great. My legs are in excellent shape. I have more energy than I ever used too. I have a much more 'get shit done' attitude. I'm not nearly as lazy. Of course for the first few months I was just tired and sore all the time. Nowadays, however, after a year's worth of running, I feel great. It works for me =)

    I agree, a sedentary lifestyle is a problem as well as unhealthy. My recommendation, start doing outdoorsy stuff on weekends and afternoons. Pick up some sort of board sport or something. If you are new at it, it will always suck for the first couple of months. Have some perseverance though and soon you will find you have a great new hobby. The plus side of a steady workout is that you can indulge yourself. Build some muscles, increase your metabolism, you can start eating some hearty meals. Good stuuf.

    Also, you mentioned you have kids, try getting involved in a sport or something with them. Take 'em hiking. Some of my best home memories involved my dad and I wandering around in the forest finding old deer skeletons and such on the weekend =)
  • Re:My excuse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ca111a ( 1078961 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @01:22PM (#30834250)
    I biked to work couple times, but then decided not to. The problem is - you share the road with *cars*. So, unless there is a dedicated bike trail or a separate bike lane, it is simply too dangerous. First: the drivers do not want to share the road with a slow moving object - not only bikes, but even seniors for example. Fortunately for seniors, they are usually inside very big and somewhat safe cars. Bicyclists are not. Second: chances of staying intact in an accident for a bicyclist are much lower compared to those of a car driver/passenger. Now, let's combine the first and the second... And I haven't even started with bad weather, visibility issues or intentional desire to hurt a bicyclist (ugly, but possible).
  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:44PM (#30835504) Homepage Journal

    Interesting remark. You and I are reading different books, it seems. I don't doubt that even early humans had a lot more than gathering, hunting and mating in their lives. My argument wasn't regarding the contents of their lives, but rather the timeframe and the closeness between effort and reward. From what I've learnt, it wasn't until agriculture and/or herding evolved that timelines of half a year or more between investment and payoff became common. Way too late in human development to have much of an influence on our genes.

  • Re:My excuse (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:52PM (#30835632)

    For extra exercise I tried cycling to other towns (which has purpose: I can look at tourist stuff, and the countryside is pretty along the way).

    It's sad that even though you now seem to enjoy exercise 'for the sake of it', which is natural and healthy attitude, you still cling to the notion that you have to justify it as a practical endeavour. Please stop doing this.

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