Have you ever heard it said that sitting is the new smoking?
Well, it is true that sitting it’s not going to cause lung cancer or make your teeth turn yellow or even give you bad breath, but too much sitting could be seen as one of the root causes for many health problems that modern society faces today.
You see, even though at this time of the year no-one feels like it, there is no denying that we have become wealthier. Don’t believe me? Think about it for a moment- can you remember when us 30-somethings were kids, how much time we spent at the malls? They weren’t even around back then, right? Or, how many of the adults we knew all had laptops, tablet or cell phones? Or, how about this one- how often did you and your parents eat at a restaurant?
Now you might say, but Albie none of these products and malls and things existed back then so we could not have had them.
Well, the simple fact of the matter is this- if nobody can afford to buy iPhones, 3D TV’s or boxes full of Krispy Cream Doughnuts, these companies wouldn’t exist and if you are reading this piece you must have a cell phone, laptop or tablet, if not all three.
Anway, my point is that we can afford more and more luxuries nowadays and we spend our hard earned cash on things that don’t require much effort to enjoy. In fact, it seems like the less effort it takes the more desirable it is to own. Think of home entertainment, cars and restaurants with beautiful views. And where to earn all the money we need to afford all these nice things? In front of a computer seated at a desk working, with only a few short breaks, for 8 or more hours a day.
Yes, I know what you are thinking (maybe). You might say, “but one of the things I spend my money on is a gym contract, which I use, regularly” and that is fantastic.
Allow me to get a little technical to make my point. In exercise science, there are a lot of measurements that are used to gauge how hard we are working. Energy expenditure is measured in Calories, Power is measured in Watts and the body’s response to the exercise we do is measured with heart rate monitors that show the max and average BPM. A less understood measurement is MET or the Metabolic Equivalent of a particular exercise. It is less commonly used because it is not easily standardised and understood, but I will attempt to do that now.
To do that, I have to start with something called, BMR or Base Metabolic Rate, with is the amount of energy a person uses at rest, this is the minimum amount of energy the body uses to keep essential bodily functions going like breathing, food digestion, non-cognitive brain function and so on. MET, then is a value assigned to any particular exercise or activity as a factor of how much that activity increases your Metabolic rate, (heart rate, breathing, muscle function). In other words, when rest or zero activity is 1 MET and playing Basketball is considered a 6 MET activity the metabolic load will be 6 times higher than at rest. So when a 90kg fellow like me would be playing Basketball for an hour I would be burning 6 times more calories(493Cal) than I would be when I sleeping for an hour on a Sunday afternoon(82.2Cal).
Now back to my point of sitting down too much being bad for your health.
Even if you spend an hour at the gym every day of the week you, but the rest of your time is spent sitting at a computer, commuting by car or public transport and watching TV you would still not be able to match the energy expenditure of someone who has a more active lifestyle with a physically more demanding job than you.
Let’s do the math.
In two scenarios a 35-year-old man that weighs 90kg is an office-bound worker in the corporate world in the fist scenario and a bricklayer in the second scenario.
In the first scenario our subject spends 2.5hours in the traffic,1.8MET, to get to and from the office where he works for 9 hours a day of which he will be seated at his desk or in meetings, a 1,5 MET activity for 7.5 hours. Including a lunch time break and the occasional walk to a meeting or a colleague’s desk, he spends the rest of his working day engaged in 2.5 MET activities. After work, he goes to the gym where he spends an hour lifting weights, a 5 MET activity before he heads home to help with the kids for an hour, a 3.5 MET activity before he relaxes in front of the TV before bedtime. All and all our subject spent 17 hours awake- 7.5 hours at 1.5MET, 2.5hours at 1.8 MET, 1.5hours at 2.5MET, 1 hour at 5MET, 1 hour at 3.5MET with the kids and 3.5 hours at 1.2MET relaxing which converts to a total of 2646,84 Calories spent during the day.
In the second scenario, the same guy works on a building site for 9 hours a day and gets 2 hours of breaks for lunch and tea. That is 6 hours engaged in a 4.3MET activity and 2 hours at 1.2MET relaxing during breaks. Let’s also say he now spends 4 hours commuting to and from the building site in a combination of walking a riding public transport, a 2,5 MET activity. In a total of 12 hours or subject in the second scenario spent 3140.76 Calories. That is 493.92 Calories more in 5 fewer hours that the first scenario. WOW.
Now, calorie count in these two scenarios are purely indications and of activity levels and we all know that general health goes hand-in-hand with being active so we can expect the guy in the second scenario to be of better health than the guy in the first scenario.
So, what to do?
We can’t all walk out on our jobs to become bricklayers now, can we? No, but we can become more aware of the little things we can do to keep ourselves healthy. After all, it is the accumulation of little steps, that gets us to our goals in the end.
I closing I’d say this try to stand, walk and stretch as often as possible during the working day and when you are in the gym for an hour every day, make very sure that you don’t waste that hour- it’s precious.