It is with some major pride and utter joy that I write and announce that my daughter has started taking her first unaided steps. She has cast away my helping hands. She has rejected her walkers, and is now running free, like the scene from Forrest Gump when his leg braces come off….
Last night my daughter walked 25 steps unaided and now we can’t seem to be able to stop her! She marches around the place, chases her two year old big brother and squeals with delight as well clap, cheer and encourage her. It is an exciting time in my home as she spends most of her waking time on her feet now.
As of now though, we should probably be cheering anyone who is stood up and walking. The reason? More research is suggesting that sitting for lengthy periods of time is actually bad for your health. This health article at the BBC from back in 2012 quotes a Loughborough University study that states the following:
“Sitting for long periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, researchers suggest.
The scientists from Leicester and Loughborough Universities say harm is done even if people also exercise.”
Soooo, us runners are not exempt, it would seem… The article goes on to say:
“Dr Emma Wilmot, who led the study, said it was clear that those who sat the most had a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and death than those who sat the least.
She said: “If a worker sits at their desk all day then goes to the gym, while their colleague heads home to watch TV, then the gym-goer will have better health outcomes.
“But there is still a health risk because of the amount of sitting they do.
“Comparatively, the risk for a waiter who is on their feet all day is going to be a lot lower.”
She added: “People convince themselves they are living a healthy lifestyle, doing their 30 minutes of exercise a day.
“But they need to think about the other 23.5 hours.”
Ok, so marathon training definitely does not make me exempt. This is enough to get us thinking and potentially worried that if we sit for lengthy periods of time it could be detrimental to our health, even if we exercise regularly. However, there is other bad news for those who sit for lengthier periods of time too. A study based upon data from the US census suggests that if you sit more, you’re more likely to be disabled after age 60. This article at NPR news states:
“People who spent more time sitting were more likely to become disabled when compared with people with similar health and exercise habits who sat less. Each daily hour spent sitting increased the odds of problems with activities of daily living by 46 percent. Doing more exercise didn’t erase that risk.”
I’ve got to be honest, I thought that the hours of running I do each week excluded me from such concerns, I also teach whereby I am on my feet for long periods of time, but I sit a great deal due to the nature of my work. So have had to incorporate some strategies, which I’ll mention later on.
The idea of sitting being bad for the health is catching in greatly, with stand-up desks having a boom time with sales currently. Work environments are being reconsidered greatly. This article at the BBC states the following:
“Advocates say more standing would benefit not only health, but also workers’ energy and creativity. And some big organisations and companies are beginning to look seriously at change.
US firm General Electric’s British plant in Groby, Leicestershire, is considering giving staff a choice. “It’s becoming more well known that long periods of sedentary behaviour has an adverse effect on health,” says GE engineer Jonathan McGregor, “so we’re looking at bringing in standing desks.”
My friend, the awesome coach John P Morgan has been using a stand up desk for 4 years and he even has a squat position for an added dynamic:
Ultra running legend Dean Karnazes gives this tip (amongst others) for runners wanting to be injury-free:
“No sitting allowed. “I rarely sit,” Karnazes said, and explained how he avoided sitting as much as possible because of the damage it can do in terms of weakening posture and wrecking the body. His home office is equipped with a stand-up desk which he uses when writing and churning through e-mail. In addition to the biomechanical benefits, there’s evidence suggesting that reducing the amount of time sitting during the day fine-tunes the metabolism even for those who exercise regularly. (Source:“Television time and continuous metabolic risk in physically active adults.” Healy, G. N. et al. 2008. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise)”
Read the entire article ‘Dean karnazes’ 3 Tips For Injury-Proofing Your Body’ here.
Runner’s World magazine even suggested that Sitting Is The New Smoking and the headline is shared by Author Nilofer Merchant in the Huffington Post blog titled Sitting Is The Smoking of Our Generation.
As you’d expect with a blog about hypnosis for running, I am interested in the psychological influences that enhance our running and/or vice versa. The above cited Runner’s World article states:
“As if that weren’t enough to put you in a sad state, a 2013 survey of nearly 30,000 women found that those who sat nine or more hours a day were more likely to be depressed than those who sat fewer than six hours a day because prolonged sitting reduces circulation, causing fewer feel-good hormones to reach your brain.”
It does stimulate us psychologically too, that much is obvious and alertness and mental vigour is just as healthy for us. Additionally, when you know that something you are doing is good for your health, it enhances your sense of well-being in a number of ways. It is good for us emotionally and psychologically if we stand up more often (and/or be sat down less).
The bottom line is that even if we do a lot of exercise and running, if we then are sat for the majority of the day thereafter, we are still at risk from detrimental health issues associated with sitting.
What can we do?
1. Be more active and upstanding – this is obvious and rather self-explanatory, have a think about how you can work opportunities into your day to be stood up and moving around.
2. Walking to and from places – do you drive to places that you could actually walk to? Do you take lifts instead of stairs?
3. Self-monitoring – you can write this in a diary or journal whenever you have walked or stood yup and chart the time on your feet that way, or there are numerous devices you can buy (such as pedometers) that show you how much activity you do.
4. Get a standing desk – there are many out there, though some can be expensive, I reckon your health is worth it?
5. Take breaks to stand-up and walk throughout your day. Which leads me to the final quote from the previous article mentioned:
“Stuart McGill, Ph.D., director of the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo says that interrupting your sedentary time as often as possible and making frequent posture changes is important. “Even breaks as short as one minute can improve your health,” he says. Developing healthier habits will also improve your running performance, says Nikki Reiter, biomechanist with The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project. The combination of going for a run and then parking your butt for the rest of the day (or vice versa) could be a recipe for injury. “The static sitting position can cause certain muscles to become tight or overstretched, neither of which is good for your running,” she says. Even if you went for a really intense or long run, regular activity throughout the day will help your recovery.”
The message is clear; stand up more. My baby daughter is doing it, you should be too, and all those miles you runners do are not enough to save you from the scourge of sitting!
Enjoy Easter, I’ll be back after the long weekend. I’ll play you out with some Bob Marley:
I would certainly love to build in more standing and exercise into my day but I believe unfortunately, for most, it may not be an option. Currently having a day job in an office requires that I sit at my desk and work from 9 – 5.30. With an hour commute each way in my car doesn’t really allow a lot of time for standing.
The bureaucracy and red tape surrounding getting a desk you can stand at I would imagine make it near on impossible to get for most organisations.
I have however just asked whether I can bring my gym ball to work to use as a seat rather than my chair, I have a feeling ‘Health and Safety’ rules will say ‘No’.
And I will keep on running, working out, gardening, doing housework and such like when I’m home.
Just got the go ahead to bring my ball in! I am surprised. Hurray.
Great news! When I sit, I sit on a big gym ball too.
Companies ought to listen to the evidence and the health concerns of their employees. But I guess with me being a self-employed-home-office-kinda-guy, it is easier said than done and the reality may be very different than the theory for many.