Senchyna: It’s never too late to start

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Over the past few years, there have been a few studies published that have indicated that sitting is much worse for your health than standing (“sitting is the new smoking”) and, as a result, some people have modified their desks to an adjustable workstation, which allows standing or sitting.

The goal was to encourage more standing during a workday and, thereby, reducing the deleterious health effects of sitting.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology has countered the idea that sitting is much worse for you than standing. This particular study was undertaken over 16 years, and with a large study group of over 5,000 subjects.

The researchers evaluated the mortality risk of this group in relation to sitting, standing and exercise habits.

They controlled for a number of variables, including diet, body mass index, alcohol consumption, and smoking and they concluded that there no correlation between sitting time and mortality risk.

They determined that the main risk factor was lack of movement – independent of sitting or standing.

Any body-position that has a low calorie expenditure related to it carries a higher mortality risk.

The study confirms the conclusions of numerous studies over the years, even back to the first pioneering epidemiological studies in the early 1950s.

In 1953, a study headed up in Britain by Dr. Jeremy Morris examined the onset of coronary artery disease in 31,000 male transport workers. Coronary Artery Disease occurs when the major blood vessels (coronary arteries) that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients become damaged or diseased.

In the study, some of the men were bus drivers and sat for 90 per cent of the day, while the others were trolley conductors who got in and out of the buses, climbing 500 to 750 steps per day.

The conductors had a much lower incidence of CAD, and if they did get CAD, they were much less likely to die from a heart attack compared to the drivers. Similar results were found in a later study of over 100,000 postal workers and civil servants. Postal workers who delivered mail by walking or cycling had a lower risk of CAD.

In 1951, a study of longshoremen was undertaken by Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger and his colleagues to track their health over a 16-year period. In 1970, the results were published and showed that the more active the worker was, and the more calories required to do their specific set of tasks, the less likely they were to have CAD and less likely to suffer a fatal coronary or stroke event.

He also concluded from his results that men who take up exercise later in life received similar benefits to those who exercised their whole life.

In other words, it’s never too late to start.

These early studies proposed a positive relationship between physical activity and protective health benefits, even though there was resistance to these conclusions until the mid ’60s and early ’70s.

Since that time, there have been countless numbers of studies verifying these conclusions.

The authors of the recent study in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggest that recommendations made about reducing sitting time, if made, should be accompanied by increases in physical activity.

The more you move and the more calories you burn, the lower your health risk for cardiovascular disease.


– Kerry Senchyna owner and president of West Coast Kinesiology.


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