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Sitting is the new smoking
So what's the latest in office furniture? A standing desk. A growing number of workers in companies like Google and Facebook are trading in their sit-down desks for standing ones, motivated by reports saying that sitting is as injurious to health as smoking.
New research in The Lancet finds about one in 10 deaths worldwide are caused by people not getting up and engaging in physical activity such as walking 30 minutes a day for five days a week. This is backed by a recent study in the July 9 issue of BMJ Open which found that if people cut down their sitting time to less than three hours each day, they could potentially add an extra two years to their lives. The study also found cutting television viewing to less than two hours per day could contribute to a boost in life expectancy.
With Indians leading increasingly sedentary lives, the problems of the chair-bound are increasing. V K Sinha, a senior manager with a BPO in Delhi, developed stiffness in his joints and back pain. But what jolted him was his cholesterol report. "I am in my early 40s and I take good care of my diet. So I was surprised to see how high my cholesterol was, " he says. His doctor told him that he suffers from the 'sitting disease', an urban affliction affecting people who spend long hours stuck in a chair.
Human beings are not wired to sit for long hours. Till 200 years ago humans were running, walking, hunting, working in the fields and now, in the words of Dr James Levine, a leading researcher on health hazards of too much sitting, "we are chair-sentenced". Computers have pinned us to one spot. He's also an advocate of the treadmill desk - walking workstations - that burn an additional 100 to 150 calories an hour.
While these are yet not available in India, taking regular but short breaks from sitting can help you stay healthy.
When we don't move for long hours, the body is not able to metabolise carbohydrates and lipids properly. "And when you are too inactive from hour to hour, the body has little reason to keep the cholesterol and fat using pathways in the body running at a rapid pace like it should, " says Prof Marc Hamilton who works at the inactivity physiology lab at the Pennington Biomedical Center, Louisiana. In his studies, he has found out that inactivity leads to loss of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which determines how fast you can take the bad fat out of the blood. "Those days of life when you are mostly sitting, the fat can't be pulled out of the blood and be burned up by muscle. This makes fat go where you don't want it. It makes the good HDL cholesterol drop quickly. "
Having a regular workout routine doesn't help because "exercising does not make you sit less, " says Hamilton.
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