The definition of an active life
Make no mistake: “Regularly exercising is not the same as being active,” says Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., Hamilton ‘s colleague at Pennington, the nation’s leading obesity research center. Katzmarzyk is referring to the difference between official exercise activity, such as running, biking, or lifting weights, and so-called nonexercise activity, like walking to your car, mowing the lawn, or simply standing. “A person may hit the gym every day, but if he’s sitting a good deal of the rest of the time, he’s probably not leading an overall active life,” says Katzmarzyk.
But calories aren’t the only problem. In 2009, Katzmarzyk studied the lifestyle habits of more than 17,000 men and women and found that the people who sat for almost the entire day were 54 percent more likely to end up clutching their chests than those who sat for almost none of the time. That’s no surprise, of course, except that it didn’t matter how much the sitters weighed or how often they exercised. “The evidence that sitting is associated with heart disease is very strong,” says Katzmarzyk. “We see it in people who smoke and people who don’t. We see it in people who are regular exercisers and those who aren’t. Sitting is an independent risk factor.”
Do you sit all day at a desk? You’re courting muscle stiffness, poor balance and mobility, and lower-back, neck, and hip pain. But to understand why, you’ll need a quick primer on fascia, a tough connective tissue that covers all your muscles. While fascia is pliable, it tends to “set” in the position your muscles are in most often. So if you sit most of the time, your fascia adapts to that specific position.