Think hitting the gym on the way home makes up for the hours you just spent sitting at a desk and the evening you will spend sitting on the couch watching the tube? Think again!
I’ve been reading with interest the growing body of research showing that sitting, sitting and more sitting is B-A-D for us, even if we do make formal exercise a part of our day. The New York Times had another “Gee, did you write this just for me” article in last Sunday’s magazine that asked the eternal question, “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?” The focal person of the article is the Mayo Clinic’s James Levine, author of NEAT, which I wrote about almost a year ago. This bit really hit the mark:
Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Our bodies are meant to move. And not just in one big dose every day or every other day. The article quoted inactivity researcher Marc Hamilton thusly: “Exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting.” Even if you have to work at a desk all day, you can stand up, do a few stretches, fidget, swap your chair for a stability ball…just do something so you’re not sitting still for hour and hours.
I do most of my exercise before work, but I also go for a short walk or do a little bit of yoga at lunch. After work I do something similar before I make dinner and settle into an evening of studying and blogging. Whenever I am sitting for a stretch, I make it a point to get up roughly once an hour. To be perfectly honest, my habit of drinking a lot of water makes this easy, both from the input and output sides of the equation, if you catch my drift, and I think that you do.
Tuesday evening update: I noticed my low back was sore when I went to bed last night, and it was worse this morning. It felt like the pain was in the muscle (as opposed to the spine or the sciatic nerve), so I stuck to my intended activity plan for the day. I went on a 4-mile walk (starting out a little slower), lifted weights and did yoga (modifying both a bit to not aggravate the low back muscles). I made sure I did not sit in my desk chair for more than an hour without getting up and moving around for a few minutes. I did take two ibuprofen this morning, but that’s it. It’s now 9:18 p.m., and my back pain is nearly gone. Movement is good medicine!