Why I Am No Longer Sitting Pretty

By Posted October 9th, 2013


QuittingIt turns out that quitting smoking was bad for my health. OK, I’m kidding because that is not true, but at a recent visit to the doctor I learned that my quitting smoking may have inadvertently also had a negative impact on my cardiovascular health, circulation and weight.  How? It turns out quitting smoking changed my daily routine more than I realized.

I work from my home office when I’m not traveling.  I never smoked in the house, so when I took a cigarette break I would get up from my desk and head down the 21 stairs to go outside where I walked around smoking for 8 or so minutes before heading back up. I probably did this 20 times a day. Each day, I would also sometimes go for a run, hike or bike ride when I made the journey outside to smoke.  I even tracked how many steps a day I took with a pedometer. Getting up to smoke often was the reason I was moving around a lot!


I quit smoking in March of this year. But, because I was no longer taking those 20 little breaks a day I was also not getting up from my desk as often each day. I may have been even more productive at work, but I was sitting for hours at a time.  Despite the careful diet and the daily exercise, I was actually getting bigger every day and my little pedometer was no longer proudly broadcasting the number of steps to my friends on the internet.


SittingQuitting smoking is probably one of the best decisions anyone can make for their health and, although I am making light of it, lets get to my newly discovered problem.  Those who spend the most time in chairs have a 147% increased risk of a cardiovascular event, compared to those who those who sit the least, according to UK researchers. The most persistent sitters also had a soaring diabetes risk and were 49% more likely to die earlier of many different causes.  (credit to “The Hot Seat” by Ginny Graves, Vogue October 2013).

The writer goes on to ask Dr. James Levine, an obesity expert and anti-sitting evangelist (who knew there were such things?) if it was possible to be truly healthy if you are someone who does most of your work from a chair.  His answer was, “Standing should be your default mode … when you are on the phone, texting, even watching TV.  The body was designed to be up and moving. Our system works best when we are on our feet.”

The article also shares the scary stat that after a scant 90 seconds of sitting, important cellular responses that sensitize cells to insulin begin to switch off, so you do not process glucose as easily after thirty minutes in a chair, your triglycerides start to climb.  But when you stand up, the muscles in the backs of your legs and back engage; your metabolic rate increases; your body processes cholesterol more efficiently.


WalkingAs I type this blog (while I SIT on my four hour flight to Texas) I have decided to make a change.  I am going to join the stand-up desk revolution.  I have tried this half-heartedly in the past with little success but my new pants size and recent doctor visit have pushed me to make the change for good.  I will start with the temporary stand up desk (a T-shaped thing that sits on top of my existing desk that brings me to standing height) until a can get my current desk lifted to the appropriate height.  At the very least, like quitting smoking, it’s a step (or hundreds of steps) in the right direction.  I’ll check back in, via a future blog, to let you know if I have had any success or if I am off to try the next craze: the treadmill desk. Oh yes, it exists…..