Today I’m switching gears from the charter school advocacy and education reform entries that I’ve been posting all week. Instead, today we take a quick look at the office and see where we can improve the aura of the workplace. A few months ago the New York Times posted an entry on one of its blogs that talked about why you should stand up when you work. What did the blog entry argue as the main reason to get up while working?
So part of the problem with sitting a lot is that you don’t use as much energy as those who spend more time on their feet. This makes it easier to gain weight, and makes you more prone to the health problems that fatness often brings.
But it looks as though there’s a more sinister aspect to sitting, too. Several strands of evidence suggest that there’s a “physiology of inactivity”: that when you spend long periods sitting, your body actually does things that are bad for you.
As an example, consider lipoprotein lipase. This is a molecule that plays a central role in how the body processes fats; it’s produced by many tissues, including muscles. Low levels of lipoprotein lipase are associated with a variety of health problems, including heart disease. Studies in rats show that leg muscles only produce this molecule when they are actively being flexed (for example, when the animal is standing up and ambling about). The implication is that when you sit, a crucial part of your metabolism slows down.
Pretty bad stuff, huh? But wait, the blog entry goes on to talk about how reducing physical activity actually hurts people who are already physically fit. Take a look at this research:
Nor is lipoprotein lipase the only molecule affected by muscular inactivity. Actively contracting muscles produce a whole suite of substances that have a beneficial effect on how the body uses and stores sugars and fats.
Which might explain the following result. Men who normally walk a lot (about 10,000 steps per day, as measured by a pedometer) were asked to cut back (to about 1,350 steps per day) for two weeks, by using elevators instead of stairs, driving to work instead of walking and so on. By the end of the two weeks, all of them had became worse at metabolizing sugars and fats. Their distribution of body fat had also altered — they had become fatter around the middle. Such changes are among the first steps on the road to diabetes.
Certainly not good news by any stretch of the imagination. Part of me believes that the reason why I’ve been hit with an onset of Type 2 Diabetes is because of the dramatic change in lifestyle that I underwent during the latter part of 2006. It was at that time when I graduated from graduate school and began working full-time. Working full-time forced me into a two-hour daily commute (which used to be the two hours I would spend in the gym) as well as to sit behind a computer for the vast majority of my day. Not a good change for a person who is prone to gaining weight, you know?
If you have a chance, click on the link to the article that’s posted above. I think you’ll enjoy reading it.