Can sitting kill you?

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All that sitting down might be killing you. Slowly.

Those countless hours you spent in Main Stacks? That 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job you’re holding over summer? As it turns out, both are extremely bad for your health. But it’s not the lack of sunlight, the slow depletion of endorphins or the dreary routine of corporate culture that threatens your life — it’s the sitting. That’s right; the passive position of scholars and desk workers everywhere is bad for you. Just how bad? Well, some of the negative effects include, in a roughly ascending order of severity: weight gain, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and endometrial cancer. Yeah, we thought that was a pretty dismal list, too.

What’s worse, the negative effects start almost immediately upon sitting— and the consequences only increase in severity as you prolong your sitting. When you first sit down, the rate at which you burn calories decreases to about a third of what it is when walking. If you sit for over six hours a day, your body starts to increase production of fatty molecules and bad cholesterol; after two weeks of that, muscles start to atrophy. Weight gain and high cholesterol will eventually plague your health, and if you continue this for 10 years, your chance of dying from heart disease increases by 64 percent.

Thankfully, modern life and scholarship doesn’t have to be unhealthy.  If you stand once during an hour of sitting and get a half hour of activity a day, you’ll combat its negative effects. In addition, you don’t have to sit while you study or work — height-adjustable, stand-up desks are becoming increasingly available, and makeshift stand-up desks are always easy to make. Some of UC Berkeley’s libraries have also confirmed the existence of stand-up desks, which they’ve mentioned are usually unoccupied. And in case the positive health effects and availability of stand-up desks don’t convince you to change your sedentary habit, rest assured that great writers have stood up to sitting down. According to PR Daily, Ernest Hemingway and Vladimir Nabokov (among other great authors) were both known for their stand-up writing, and while we don’t promise that you’ll be the next Nabokov, standing up may lead to great heights (in more ways than one).

Image source: askpang under Creative Commons

Contact Griffin Mori-Tornheim at [email protected]