Sitting Kills, Moving Heals is the title of a book by exercise physiologist Dr. Joan Vernikos. Her argument—one that has been confirmed by other scientists in a new field called “inactivity physiology” is not that sitting is necessarily bad for us; just that we spend far too much time doing it.
The real problem is inactivity. Or put another way, it’s the absence of moving against gravity in a variety of ways throughout the day.
Moving in opposition to gravity stimulates certain cell functions we need to be healthy, and we need to move frequently throughout the day. An hour at the gym after work won’t cut it.
Dr. Vernikos became an expert on the physiological effects of gravity while working with NASA, where she observed the health-damaging effects of weightlessness on astronauts. Living in a gravity-free environment, she says, accelerates the aging process by about ten times. Changes in muscle and bone and other detrimental physiological changes that ordinarily occur in one year’s time can occur in a week to a month in a gravity-free environment. She subsequently conducted experiments with patients confined to their beds for long periods of time, who experience a similar physical deterioration.
Jobs that require sitting all or most of the day can have a similar deleterious effect.
Fortunately Dr. Vernikos discovered that simply standing up from a seated position 35 times throughout the day is enough to prevent the physical deterioration that would otherwise occur.
You can’t make this into one or two exercise sessions; rather, you need to get up and move at various intervals throughout the day.
Periods of intense exercise are still recommended for optimal health, but the “non-exercise” movements you do throughout the day are considered more important by Dr. Vernikos and the new inactivity physiologists.
Working standing up is not a helpful alternative, as it too is a relatively static position. The key is changing levels and moving against gravity; the more varied the movement, the better. Dr. Vernikos recommends “playing” with gravity and becoming inventive: stooping, squatting, reaching, bending, stretching, jumping, etc. She has various suggestions for incorporating more movement into your life in her book.
Following Dr. Vernikos’ advice can have many additional benefits. Businesses have found workers become more productive when they take periodic mini-breaks. Getting up to stretch and move can “break set” so you come back to the task at hand more alert and with fresh perspective. Also, lots of little chores get done throughout the day instead of piling up.
At Beyond Health, Dr. Vernikos’ work has given us a new appreciation of rebounding. If stimulating the cells by opposing gravity is key to healthy physiological function, what could be better than challenging every cell in the body with each jump? (See Raymond’s article on rebounding.) Although longer sessions are necessary to get an aerobic workout (15 minutes or more), if you’re working at home and have a rebounder handy, jumping for a few minutes here and there throughout the day can make you feel just like the Energizer Bunny!
- Mercola J. Sitting kills, moving heals. June 23, 2013. Dr. Mercola interviews Dr. Joan Vernikos. Accessed August 5, 2016.
- Hamilton MT. Too little exercise and too much sitting: Inactivity physiology and the need for new recommendations on sedentary behavior. Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports. July 2008;2(4):292–298.
- Francis R. Bouncing Magic. Beyond Health News. Available at Beyond Health website.