According to an article in the latest issue of the highly-regarded British medical journal, The Lancet, there is a behavior exhibited by people the world over that demonstrably increases the risk of such serious ailments as type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, as well as both colon and breast cancers. People who engage in this behavior can expect to shorten their lives more drastically than if they smoked cigarettes or were in a car crash. Ironically, the activity that is killing so many prematurely is inactivity; specifically, sitting.
The research team, lead by Dr. I-Min Lee for The Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group, crunched the numbers to demonstrate the effect of a sedentary lifestyle has on life expectancy.
What was disturbing about the report is that it discovered those who sit for a living, then come home and watch TV or sit at a computer, have the same statistical chance of dying from it as someone who has the same lifestyle but exercises for 15 to 30 minutes a day. Those exercises may help with quality of life and other body and mind issues, but they do not save us from lowered life expectancy. Last year, inactivity was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 5.3 million people which is four times more than had died of a traffic fatality.
The group’s report was entitled Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. In it, the researchers concluded that the problem of too much sitting is a global one as we move farther away from our hunter-gatherer roots to our current desk-jockey occupations. Indeed, in an unrelated recent National Post article, it was reported that due to China’s emerging new middle-class, the rate of new Type II diabetes is four times that of North Americans. No country is immune, although the populations of non-industrialized countries are less affected as daily life for their citizens takes more energy and requires less sitting than in our own society.
Unfortunately, when your employment calls for a lot of sitting, such as is required of office workers at every level of an organization, from order taker to CEO, there is little one can do. Other than to take as many activity breaks as your employment situation would allow, there are far too few opportunities for far too many employees to get up off their death-dealing office furniture as frequently as the report indicates would be advisable. After work hours should be filled with hobbies requiring effort and movement; think active recreation rather than recliner rocker.
Or we can all maintain the status quo and accept that our lives will be at least 10% shorter. Either way we will all have to definitely sit and think on it