Granted, when you think about all the things that are slowly killing you, things like second-hand smoke, the chemicals in your food, and the guy in the cubicle next to you with the annoying laugh probably come to mind before your office chair or the sofa in your living room.
Think again says, James Levine, an endocrinologist at Mayo clinic and author of the article “Killer Chairs” in November’s issue of Scientific American.
Levine cites the results of 18 studies over a period of 16 years involving 800,000 people. Among other things, they found that the average person spends 13 hours a day seated. That means in a normal 16 hours of wakefulness, we are only physically mobile about 3 of those hours (similar to the brown bat).
With the advent of personal pedometers like the FitBit or Nike’s Fuel, more and more of us have discovered what Levine is talking about. Someone with an office job finds it pretty tough to get in the recommended 10,000 steps (roughly 5 miles a day) without purposely adjusting their habits.
Relying on a car as a primary form of transportation robs you of thousands of potential steps. It means you probably get only 1 to 2 miles in.
Levine says that the human body was not designed for this sedentary life and, as a result, our internal systems suffer. People who sit for 8 hours a day double their chances of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“Overall, when you combine all causes of death and compare any group of sitters with those who are more active, sitters have a 50% greater likelihood of dying,” says Levine.
The lack of movement slows your metabolism, which predisposes your system towards fat storage.
But lean people are also adversely affected. Sitting immediately after a meal leads to high level blood sugar spikes. The good news is that taking a simple walk instead cuts those spikes in half.
This is a big deal to your pancreas. Throw it too many highs and lows and you can permanently wear the organ out. Bam, no more insulin regulation. Statistically, 1 in 4 adults are either diabetic or on their way to diabetes. We are fast becoming a nation of broken pancreases.
The next time your Barcalounger beckons, remember it’s no different than a wisp of cigarette smoke or a Twinkie: just another killer in disguise. Your chair might not be the devil, but it certainly isn’t your friend.
In the end, as pedestrian as walking is, those 10,000 steps a day might be the new behavior that saves your life.