Public Health

Health dangers for active couch potatoes

In my job, I spend nearly my entire day staring at a computer screen.  Whether this is writing computer code, compiling a report, reading papers, or checking my email, I am constantly in a seated position.  I do, however, exercise six mornings per week.  Does this mean that I am an active, healthy person since I exercise religiously or that I am a health risk since I spend so much time sitting?

The N.Y. Times Well blog describes a May 2010 paper which found the following:

Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting.

The extremeness of our sedentary lifestyle is to blame.  Doing things such as cooking and cleaning is not heavy exercise, but it does burn some calories and get your heart moving much more than just sitting in front of the T.V.  Chasing after toddlers after work–while potentially a stressful activity–could also help improve your heart’s condition.

The article recommends decreasing the amount of extreme physical inactivity in your day.  For instance, stand up more and sit less.  Pace around your office.  Do housework while you are watching T.V. Read your favorite blog on a mobile device while going for a walk.  Your heart will thank you.

1 Comment

  1. With the numbers of us spending all our working days in front of computers even if we try to avoid any time in front of the television, there is likely to be a serious increase in heart attacks in the next 10 to 20 years. We’ll have to figure out more active ways to work even if we are in front of the computer.

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