The idea that "sitting is the new smoking" certainly has legs. (So to speak.) It gained some traction back in 2011, when James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., (he of magic underwear fame) told The New York Times Magazine, "Excessive sitting is a lethal activity." Since then, evidence has been mounting that all the hours logged in our chairs, cars and couches contributes to a host of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Not to mention, obesity and back pain. So what's your average desk jockey to do?
The answer isn't running a marathon. (Whew.) And it doesn't rhyme with "breadmill resk" either. Instead, it's about getting up and moving as you're able. Preferably about once an hour.
Dr. Levine recently told the Chicago Tribune that office workers should "set a timer for every 50 minutes, and the moment the bell goes off they should go for a walk or do jumping jacks or lunges on stacks of computer paper." (We'd like to see a demonstration of that.) Research has found that working out after work (or before, you early birds) "sadly doesn't quite offset the apparent harm of sitting all day long," Dr. Levine tells KQED News. Instead, it also takes moving regularly throughout the day. This, Dr. Levine told the station, will help reduce the body's peaks "in blood sugar and triglycerides and fat by half."
If those paper lunges aren't for you, consider some ideas from Dr. Levine's colleague, Michael Jensen, M.D., via the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Jensen tells the newspaper he "uses various ways to reduce daily sitting time that he also recommends to his patients." For example, if he's meeting with just a colleague or two, "he finds a place where they can walk together instead of sitting." And he encourages his patients who have children to stand while playing spectator at their kids' activities. "There's no reason you have to sit and watch those games," he told the paper. (We assume he's talking about the sitting, not the watching.)
Both Dr. Levine and Dr. Jensen emphasize that adopting daily habits like these can add up to big health improvement over time. And while there are a host of high-tech tools and products designed to help you move more, it's the tools you lace up that are likely to make the biggest impact on your health. "The best product of all," says Dr. Levine, "is a pair of shoes."
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