Don’t just sit there! Do something

This post was originally published in the Toronto Star’s intern blog.


"I was sitting, waiting, wishing..." by JoshSemans on Flickr.

We radio roomers have a dangerous job.

While other journalists physically chase stories, we sit on our rumps making phone calls and staring at screens.

Although our minds are working hard, our bodies only see action when we zip over to the bathroom. And remember, we work eight-hour shifts.

So, why isn’t this sitting well with me? (Sorry, I love bad puns)

Well, a new field of study — lead by Canadian researchers — is focusing on what’s actually happening in the body during these sluggish sessions.

And it’s not looking good.

We’re not completely “off,” as it were, and we’re straining ourselves in ways that are not yet well understood.

To learn more about our physiology in these sedentary states, scientists in Ottawa have been hooking kids up to all kinds of monitoring devices as the youngsters do, well, nothing. While the subjects watch Sponge bob (or whatever the cool cartoon is these days), the researchers watch how their bodies respond to their lack of activity.

The CBC reports that, so far, they’ve found evidence of the following: two to seven hours of uninterrupted sitting is enough to increase their blood sugar, decrease their good cholesterol and to have a real impact on their health. I’d imagine we adult-types are not much more robust.

I hate to admit this but, at time of writing, I’ve been sitting firmly on my tush for about six hours. What’s more, I’m polishing off some coffee in a can and eating cold pizza. (Yeah, my body hates me.)

So, in an effort to guilt myself healthier, I’ll post some of the more interesting points I found in the CBC story:

  • Each two-hour-per-day increase in sitting at work was linked with a 5 per cent increased risk of obesity. (So, besides extra cash, think carefully about what you gain from those overtime shifts.)
  • Women who spent seven hours or more per day sitting had an increased risk of endometrial cancer compared to those who sit less than three hours per day. (Egad! I hate when bad things apply to me)
  • In 2008, Spanish researchers found the odds of having a mental disorder were 31 per cent higher for subjects who spent more than 42 hours a week watching TV than for those who watched fewer than 10.5 hours a week. (Surely, youtube doesn’t count…)

The good news is that even simple activities may help mitigate the damage. Just getting up and shaking it off creates those little interruptions to which the body positively responds.

So, now we know that people are doing science to try and convince us stuff we should probably be able to figure out on our own.

I’m not trying to be snarky. In fact, I say we give ‘um a standing ovation.


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