Stand up and move, cont.

February 26, 2010 at 5:44 pm 4 comments

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!



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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. skye  |  February 26, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    hey JR,

    another great post! you are a one stop library with a wealth of information and for that i thank you greatly. been bringing your work to many people’s attention.
    keep charging bro and lets beat on some drums(or physio ball) soon!



    • 2. J.R. Atwood  |  February 26, 2010 at 10:43 pm

      Thanks for the props, Skye. Be sure to let me know anytime you swing by the Bay Area and we’ll get our drum on!

      P.S. — Did you produce any videos from the EA jam in Seattle?

  • 3. jleeger  |  March 1, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Yes, JR! Another great!

    What terrifies me the most about this, though, is the thoughtless blindness with which people will follow this type of advice.

    As if the fact that you’re stuck in an office working on a computer or speaking on a telephone is not at all related to your level of activity, your health, or well-being…As if adding something MORE is always the best solution…or as if walking on a treadmill really represents anything nearing “fitness” for a human animal.

  • 4. Todd in Spruce grove, Alberta  |  February 13, 2012 at 9:24 am

    After months of researching stand up desks, I was leaning on a bookcase @ work. It was the perfect height for stand up workstation, but obviously the top was far to small for a workarea. I looked over at the large corner unit desktop and thought, I wonder if I swap the corner unit desk top onto the book case and essentially turn it into a stand up pedestile desk. It’s GREAT !


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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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