What’s a Person To Do?

It is not surprising that people are confused about how best to keep themselves healthy.  There is so much conflicting information out there these days.

I recall an article a while back that had the alarming headline “Sitting down is KILLING you!”  That headline would scare anyone who is chained to a desk all day.  Dr. James A. Levine, director of obesity solutions at the Mayo Clinic and the author of “Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You”, claimed that today’s office workers “sit for 13 hours a day, sleep for 8, and move for just 3.”  The result of all this inactivity, according to his research, is heart disease, obesity, depression and deteriorating bones.  Dr. Levine said we need to stand up more.  To help us all out, Dr. Levine invented the treadmill desk (probably not for anyone who can’t pat their head and rub their tummy at the same time).  So sitting is bad for you.

Other experts have suggested that we need to stand up more.  (I wonder if they have a financial stake in stand-up desks.)   But I found articles that claimed standing for long periods of time can increase your risk of varicose veins, back and foot problems, and carotid artery disease.  So standing is bad for you.

I found another article in the New York Times where a reader asked if lying down was as bad for you as sitting.   I thought the answer was pretty self-evident but they had John P. Thyfault, associate professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, respond.  According to Dr. Thyfault, lying in bed (or on the couch) is as bad as sitting.  So lying down is bad for you.

Then there are the articles that say running causes knee problems and premature death (and articles that say those claims are false).  Still other studies claim excessive biking or swimming will cause bone loss.

So far we have sitting, standing, lying down, running, swimming or biking are bad for you.  How is anyone going to know what to do to stay healthy?  The result is many people do nothing (though nothing is the equivalent of sitting all the time).  I mentioned this confusing information to a co-worker.  Her response was that everyone should just lie on the ground and roll everywhere.  Interesting answer but not practical.

NASA has studied this whole physical activity thing too.  Based on their research, they say you need to stand up for 2 minutes a day, 16 times a day while at work in order to maintain bone and muscle density.  I can see it now: cubicle farms throughout the corporate world having 2-minute breaks throughout the day, kind of like the 7th-inning stretch in baseball but multiple times, where everyone stands up.  It would be a start but I don’t see how that provides any aerobic exercise to anyone.  Aerobic exercise is important too.

The guidelines from most government and health organizations say we should be getting 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week in order to build and maintain health and fitness.  According to multiple studies, 2.5 hours is the sweet spot.  Less than that, you aren’t improving your health.  More than that, some studies claim you might actually be harming yourself.

If you think about it, 2.5 hours is not a huge time commitment but will provide measurable benefits to your health, like lower cholesterol and blood pressure to name just a few.  You just need to set aside the time each week. It is a good goal to work towards.  No more excuses.  As Nike says, just do it.