You eat right, exercise at least three times per week, but still have high blood pressure and cholesterol. How is that possible? In a previous decade, we might have asked if you were a smoker (What?! Smoking is a death sentence and is illegal in a lot of public areas… of course I don’t smoke!). So what’s killing your heart?
Lots of factors contribute to your heart health, but there is one that affects us all: sitting. Everybody sits. Most of us sit… a lot. On average, 11 hours a day in America. And unfortunately, most of that sitting we spend sitting still (I thought “sitting still” was a virtue?).
Sitting is the new smoking.
Well, not really new. We’ve long known for a long time that lots of sitting is bad for one’s heart. A landmark study in the storied medical journal Lancet published almost 70 years ago found that bus drivers who sat all day had almost twice as many heart attacks as their more active ticket-taking partners.
Over the decades the association of sitting with heart attacks has been repeatedly confirmed, and over time we’ve learned more about this relationship. Sitting has powerful effects: sitting slows metabolism and reduces one’s ability to regulate blood sugar and to metabolize fat. Sitting is also linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, as well as diabetes, which is itself a powerful risk factor for heart disease.
But I exercise.
Great! Exercise is needed to keep your heart healthy, but studies have shown that going to the gym and working out hard doesn’t improve the heart attack rate for those who sit many hours a day. This discouraging finding may seem paradoxical; but because we sit for such long periods of time, sitting’s effects seem to overpower those of working out. We now know that it’s prolonged sitting that’s causing the problem, not simply lack of exercise.
So, get a standing desk?
No! A recent paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology demonstrated twice the risk for heart attack among those who used standing desks compared to a group seated at conventional desks. How it that possible? From a biochemical perspective, standing still isn’t that much different from sitting still. Additionally standing seems to induce inflammation, a circumstance that promotes heart disease.
What’s the solution? (It’s simple, really.)
Don’t sit still, don’t stand still. (Huh?) Evidence is accumulating that even modest activity while sitting (“fidgeting”) can make a big difference in serum biochemical markers. (But we don’t mean using fidget spinners.) There are many ways to be more active during your day – get up from your desk every hour to drink water and stretch, or have a walking meeting.
Using a chair designed for active sitting, like our Newton, engages your core and keeps your muscles active. Active sitting compliments your workout routine, supports your heart health, and as an added bonus, you’ll see your posture and attention improve. Sit, for your heart. What’s not to love?
-Dr. Turner Osler