Sitting: Less is More

There are two things that battle themselves out in my brain a lot these days: 1. I went running this morning so I can eat whatever I want and 2. I went running this morning so I can sit here and do nothing for the rest of the day. More on #1 later. Today I’m going to talk myself out of #2 because it is really hot outside and mostly what I want to do is nothing. If it were possible, I would like to sit and watch tv on with the lights out and the fans on until the temperature outside is kind enough to dip back down into the low 80s, but that isn’t likely to happen in the foreseeable future (i.e., the 5-day forecast). And there are children to be fed, clothes to wash, meals to prepare, so, like it or not, I’ve got to get up out of my chair and sweat some more. Unfortunate.  (But at least I cut my hair and I’m not pregnant like I was last summer . . . .)

But aside from all of the chores and such that must be done, I know that it isn’t true that just because I went running I’ve earned the right to do nothing. I know this because whenever I am forced into a situation in which I have to sit and do nothing (or something that feels like nothing, like type on a computer for hours at a time), my body gets mad at me. My legs need to be stretched, my abs feel bulgy, my back aches, my shoulders stiffen. And, as I now know, it’s probably not just the parts of me that I can feel that suffer. Studies show that even if I exercise regularly, if I spend a lot of time sitting and doing nothing, I might as well be sedentary — my risk for heart disease and such would not decrease. Exercise is not a free pass. Bodies need to stay in motion throughout the day.

Of course, the reality is that being a mom precludes any thoughts I might have about being a couch potato. There are always dishes to wash, meals to cook, toys to put away, boys to play with, and other things to do that keep me on my feet — or at least out of a chair — and which are more physically demanding than just sitting.* I am kind of surprised that those little everyday tasks are strenuous enough to keep me out of the “couch potato” classification, but I’ll take it.

*Read the NYTimes article to learn more about METs or “metabolic equivalent of task” — a measure of energy. Light-intensity activities require 1.5-3 METs, home activities like mopping and cooking require 2-3 METs. (One MET is the amount of energy you use by lying down for 1 minute.)

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  1. Stephanie Bassett

    July 22nd, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I had never heard of these study findings before. I find it interesting, but not really surprising. Some days when I wear my pedometer I am surprised by how many steps I accumulate even when I never leave the house. Being a mom sure keeps you on your toes.


  2. lizzie

    July 23rd, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I agree that it isn’t too surprising. Our bodies were not made to do nothing. And I am often surprised to find that even when I am at home with the boys “doing nothing” it will be late in the afternoon before I ever get the chance to sit down.


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