Recent item of interest in The Gray Lady to anyone who spends most of their day sitting in chairs and staring at computers. I’m talking to you, engineering and liberal arts students, artists, bench scientists, graduate students en masse; anybody writing papers, sitting in class, studying for tests, counting beans, watching a lot of TV or playing a lot of video games.
Turns out if your buns are being warmed by a chair for the majority of your day – at school, work, home, on planes, trains or automobiles-your heart is probably suffering. Even if you exercise regularly.
Animal models suggest that as you withdraw the regular isometric contractions and active muscle activity from walking, bending, lifting, etc. on a daily basis, muscle cells experience deleterious microscopic changes like those associated with Type 2 Diabetes as well as insulin resistance and elevated levels of free fatty acids in the blood.
Research has shown that males who are sedentary for 23 hours a week (that’s only a little more than 3 hours a day!) have a much greater chance of dying of heart disease (67%) than males who are sedentary less than 11 hours a week. What is striking about this is that the risk is greater in the more sedentary group even when they exercised regularly. So all those hours of studying, prepping, working, researching and vegging out in front of the boob tube can take their toll on your muscles even if you hit the gym afterwards. And remember, your heart is the most important muscle you got.
I’m not suggesting you stop heading over to the RPAC to hit the elliptical machine and weight room – just make sure you’re moving around the rest of the day too. Use the restroom on another floor; take the stairs instead of the elevator; walk out of your way at lunch; do a few push-ups or crunches in your cubicle if you can; deliver a message on foot, in person with a smiling face, rather than a bland email.
And then go hit the gym.
Victoria Rentel, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University