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Can sitting too long really hurt your health?

February 7th, 2011

Today’s Jockology column in the Globe and Mail looks at the latest research on the potential dangers of sedentary behaviour. This topic generated a lot of interest when I blogged about it a few weeks ago, so I decided to get in touch with Travis Saunders of Obesity Panacea, whose Ph.D. research is investigating this very question, to find out more:

[...] Two new studies highlight the growing consensus that long bouts of uninterrupted sedentary behaviour carry health risks that can’t be erased even if you’re getting plenty of exercise at other times during the day. Researchers are now rushing to determine exactly what counts as “sedentary,” and how people whose jobs require them to sit at a desk for the majority of their waking hours can mitigate some of these risks… [READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE]

Right now there are more questions than answers in this field, so the advice on what we should do to avoid these risks is necessarily vague. But I loved Travis’s answer to how he deals with the issue while awaiting the results of further studies:

Until then, we’re left with interim solutions – such as the $30 foot-pedal device that Mr. Saunders invested in last fall while preparing for his doctoral exams, when he realized he was spending 14 hours a day sitting at a desk reading about the dangers of sitting at a desk.

“It just sits under my desk and I pedal, I’d say about half [an] hour out of every hour. Very low intensity, but it’s engaging the muscles in my legs and the muscles in my lower back,” he says.

“I have no idea whether or not this is making a difference, but it’s plausible … and in the absence of any other options, I’m going to keep doing it.”

There’s also an interesting graphic by Trish McAlaster that accompanies the print version of the article. It’s not yet posted online, but I’ll link to it here if and when it goes up.

UPDATE Feb. 7: I’ve received a bunch of questions about where to buy an exercise peddler like Travis uses. If you’re in the U.S., it’s simple: you can order from Amazon for $24.08. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to ship to Canada. This is the link Travis sent me for where he bought it, but they appear to have gone out of stock since last week. It looks to me like this site would ship to Canada, but I’m not sure. If anyone finds any leads for shipping to Canada, please let me know!

  1. laurie
    May 2nd, 2011 at 16:35 | #1

    i work as an executive receptionist at a global security company – it is basically a Homeland security company. my job requires that i be seated 10 hours a day, with two 10 minute breaks and a lunch hour. i have had to go on medication (celebrex) due to the lack of circulation. i think it’s time to tell my employer that this is unsustainable. i don’t want to lose my job but this is really killing me. my ankles are size of grapefruit by end of day. please help me on how to raise this issue with my employer. thank you very much.

  1. February 9th, 2011 at 15:40 | #1
  2. February 16th, 2011 at 00:23 | #2
  3. October 8th, 2011 at 19:57 | #3