Sitting Can Literally Kill You

If you’ve ever worried that you were slowly dying by spending your days trapped in cubicle-land, you don’t have to worry anymore. You’re right. And according to new research, the threat isn’t merely existential. Sitting for long periods of time set off a chain reaction of events that quicken your shuffle off this mortal coil.

Here’s what happens, says the NYT:

Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” [inactivity researcher Marc] Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides — for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.

The research found that men who sit 6 hours a day had a 20% higher death rate than men who sit 3 hours a day. The effect is even higher for women – 40%.

Not only that, but just getting three sessions in at the gym a week and watching your diet isn’t enough to counteract the negative effects of sitting. You have to figure out ways to sit less and move around more on a regular basis.

Unfortunately the modern world is geared towards making us sit. If you’re not sleeping or walking towards some place, you’re probably sitting. Here’s a video of renowned dancer and choreographer Steve Paxton talking about how the urban environment conspires to make us inert, immobile and disconnected from our bodies:My wife switched to a standing desk with a stool for backup a few months ago and not only does it feel better from muscular-skeletal perspective, she says she’s cut a few pounds because of it too.

Is Sitting a Lethal Activity? [New York Times Magazine] (Thanks to James!)