Disturbing New Research Shows Women Die Younger from Sitting Too Much at Work -- Here's How We Can Save Our Lives
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Ever felt like your job was killing you?
It may be, although not for the reasons you might think. The New York Post reported on a study claiming that sitting for extended periods of time can shorten a person’s lifespan. If you’re sitting right now, fear not, there are some things you can do.
The American Cancer Society conducted the study over 14 years, following 123,216 men and women to gauge their mortality rates in relation to their activity levels. They found that over the 14 years women who sat more than six hours daily were 37 percent more likely to die during that time than women who sat less than three hours daily. Men who sat more than six hours daily were only 18 percent more likely. The article notes, “Sitting…suppresses hormones that affect triglycerides and cholesterol, which could trigger heart disease.”
Unless a person’s job requires manual labor or is sports-related it's most likely that a quick tally of daily seated hours will sum up to at least six, if not more. Sitting usually starts early in the day, over breakfast or coffee, and continues from there. The morning commute, sitting at a computer, in meetings, at lunch, the afternoon commute, and then – if you’re anything like most people I know – you come home after a long day and sit down. Yes, that’s a lot of sitting.
You might be thinking, “Sure, I may sit a lot but I work out daily so I’m good.” Unfortunately, the grim picture this study paints is not brightened by exercise. In the official report release the study’s lead author says, "Even if you are active, sitting for long periods of time will impact your health, and you'll have a shorter lifespan…Whether a person is sitting at a desk, or sitting on a couch, sitting for long periods of time is harmful." She also points out that even if a person sleeps for eight hours and works out for one that still leaves 15 hours open for sitting. While sitting for that length of time would require a concentrated effort or meditation, sitting for half that time is easy.
So what does this all mean? It's clearly impractical for everyone to quit their jobs, overhaul their lives and seek out more physical occupations. Of course there are jobs that require movement – athlete, dancer, scuba diving instructor and yoga teacher, to name a few. However, these jobs aren’t accessible and perhaps not even desirable for everyone.
In fact, as a culture we are mostly conditioned to sit. In Eastern Body, Western Mind, a guide to the connections between modern psychology and the Chakra system, Anodea Judith aptly describes this conditioning:
Universities educate our minds at the cost of our bodies, where we sit completely still for days, months, and years, training ourselves for sit-down jobs that continue to ignore the body’s needs.
Whether you believe in the Chakra system or think of it as hippie psychobabble, this statement is hard to argue with. Most of us probably relate to the notion that we are sent through life on a path lined with seats.
In another book Judith offers some practical solutions for the sedentary nature of modern life. This one is my favorite: while riding public transportation, try to find and maintain your balance without leaning or holding onto anything. This might sound simple, but as someone who’s been doing it for a while I can attest to the enormous amount of focus and muscle control it takes. Real surfers may scoff, but this actually does require skills akin to those needed for surfing. It also saves me a lot of disappointment since I’m no longer jumping on the train and wistfully gazing around for an open seat.