Stand up and move, cont.
Earlier posts discussed how simply “standing up may be as important as exercise” and the development of treadmill desks and classroom walkstations. Olivia Johnson, a NYT blogger who writes on the “influence of science and biology on modern life,” urges us to “stand up while you read this!”
There’s a more sinister aspect to sitting. Several strands of evidence suggest that there’s a “physiology of inactivity”: that when you spend long periods sitting, your body actually does things that are bad for you.
As an example, consider lipoprotein lipase. This is a molecule that plays a central role in how the body processes fats; it’s produced by many tissues, including muscles. Low levels of lipoprotein lipase are associated with a variety of health problems, including heart disease. Studies in rats show that leg muscles only produce this molecule when they are actively being flexed (for example, when the animal is standing up and ambling about). The implication is that when you sit, a crucial part of your metabolism slows down.
It is equally promising and scary that so many of the little things we do can add up to such a large effect on our health. Johnson cites studies of (in)activity that found active walkers who significantly reduced the number of steps they took each day “by using the elevator instead of the stairs and driving to work instead of walking” became fatter in just a period of two weeks because their bodies became worse at metabolizing sugars and fats.
People in work places who simply stood up to stretch, walked to their colleagues’ offices rather than send an email, and generally ambled throughout the day “had smaller waists and better profiles for sugar and fat metabolism than those who did their sitting in long, uninterrupted chunks.” A study of movement practices and habits by doctors “doing the same job, the same week, on identical wards found that some individuals walked four times farther than others at work each day.”
The takeaway: Better health isn’t a marathon away. Simply stand-up for it!