Sunday, April 17, 2011

When Sitting Kills

I had a conversation with a family member a while back about why he can't shed his extra pounds. He exercises and has watched his diet but he he is more than twenty pounds heavier than me, and it's affecting his health.
Now I am no svelte matchstick of a man either. I still need to drop weight, but at my last doctor check-up we charted how I was steadily loosing four pounds every year without dieting.
There are two articles that I believe can explain why I am dropping and my friend can't shake the weight:
In "The New York Times Magazine" there's a good article titled "Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?". Here are a few snips:

"His initial question — which he first posed in a 1999 study — was simple: Why do some people who consume the same amount of food as others gain more weight?"
"This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides — for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall."
"The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher."
"Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”


(D.R)- So we clearly see how cubicle life and office chairs complicate attempts to maintain health and loose weight. My family member, despite trips to the golf course and gym, just cant shake the "office weight".
The difference between our lifestyles is that I'm running an outdoor service company that works every day in all kinds of weather. We are moving pretty much non-stop all day. For years now, I've been packing a light lunch of salad, meat and fruit - the hunter-gatherer meal. And this provides a bridge to the second article; "The Definitive Guide to Low Level Aerobic Activity".
This article is from "Marks Daily Apple", a site that details "The Paleolithic Diet" and activity that mimics the way early hunter-gatherers lived their daily lives.
Mark patterns his health plan on an imaginary ancestor; "Grok":

"After all, it was how our good man Grok and his family spent most of their days. Carrying water from the stream. Collecting fire wood, walking through the forests and meadows to gather greens, berries, and other plants. Working on their shelter. Perhaps migrating to another area because of drought, predators or competing tribes. Butchering, building, washing, cooking, dancing, you name it. Some of it was hard work, but it was mostly just continual – the sheer volume of low level activity that characterized Grok’s existence."
"Not only is low level aerobic activity the natural evolutionary expectation of the body, it’s flat out beneficial in its own right. It plays an integral role in maintaining weight and metabolic balance. It also builds your base and makes more strenuous workouts possible by toning all the muscles, joints and connective tissue needed for optimal strength training and high intensity aerobic activity. Low level aerobic exercise engages your energy systems and incrementally improves their functioning and efficiency. And while it does all that, it also physiologically and hormonally counters the effects of stress."

So it appears that just moving around all day is the key to keeping the weight off and tuning up the metabolism. Like "Grok" the caveman, simple constant activity should be our goal.
So far, it seems to balance out the copious amounts of Beer I drink, and if I can stay strong and loose four pounds a year without trying, that works for me.


Zacky Chan said...

If I ever get hassled by superiors for taking a lot of short walking breaks around school, out to lunch, or using an empty classroom to practice whatever, then I'll show this to them and convince them to join me!

Journeyman said...

Interesting - that re-opens the whole 'do martial artists also need to go to the gym?' debate.

Personally I always have - but only as a corrective because my job obliges me to sit on my arse for long periods of the day.

If I was able to live the life that our bodies are evolved to - that of a hunter-gatherer - then I wouldn't.

L said...

Identifying such gradual change in human activity is logical; yet it appears that few do.
Great post!

Charles James said...

Hi, DR:

First, I sit at a computer screen daily. It is bad but I get up off my duff every hour, exercise during breaks and lunch.

I like to relax with a good book which is sitting in my papa-san chair and hours of travel and enjoyment via a good book.

I can tell you that although I do this I also practice and train but most important is the fuel of my body.

I was still gaining weight at one time even tho I ran daily and taught karate and practiced, etc. but until I started to remove myself from the food industry with particularly "salt, fat, and sugar" I could not lose weight.

I had an event that woke me up and by changing my eating habits and diet I went from over two hundred pounds back down to 172 pounds at 73".

Take a look at the food industry; get rid of things like fast foods; take a look at the diet and I bet you find things like "cheesecake factory - McDonalds - BF Changs, etc.

Food industry bad joints where health is thought of as profit.

Dojo Rat said...

If I didn't drink Beer I'd instantly be ten pounds lighter.
Gradual weight reduction is working, my food diet is very healthy. No fast food for years, the only sugar I get is in alcohol.
Veges, meat, and easy on the other carbs.