Simple & Cost-Effective Action for Sitting People Health

Dear Young Professionals,

70 years but young in science – I defended my PhD thesis only four years ago I am pleased to be member of YP-CDN. Text below is translation of my Estonian Development Fund Grant Proposal competition everyone can vote for action proposed by me (!).

Here I discuss NCDs and Sedentary Life Style in integrated manner because excessive sitting independently can lead to NCDs even without tobacco, alcohol and/or wrong eating problems. I hope further cooperation between the members of NCD Action YP-CDN and SBRN /Sedentary Behavior Research Network and Estonian initiative for healthier life.

Simple & Cost-Effective Action for Sitting People Health

Excessive sitting is an independent risk factor in chronic diseases and mortality, and together with smoking, alcohol consumption and poor eating habits, results in non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Every year, 36 million people die in NCDs including 9 million younger persons in the best years of their lives who could have avoided this through lifestyle changes. Thirty heads-of-state obliged at the 2011 UN summit to prioritize actions to prevent these diseases. On May 20, 2014, the World Health Assembly will see how far they have come. It is time to start with Estonian NCDs Action.

Heart- and chronic lung diseases, diabetes and cancer - these four have been aggregated under the category of NCDs by the WHO, although for example, injuries, depression (even among younger persons) and dementia also belong in the same group. These are also diseases for which the working-age span of Estonians is among the shortest among developed countries.

Sedentary lifestyle i.e. excessive sitting is a real enemy to health, as is motionless standing. The muscles responsible for keeping posture become cumulatively over-strained and tired, subjectively perceived muscular tension has been shown to be associated with developing neck pain. Muscular system contraction-relaxation cycles have been left out; the muscles are not active assistant to the heart.

Muscle-tissue is the largest endocrine organ in our body but without normal cycling activity muscles do not extend the army of myokines to protect the immune system. Also, the myokines army can not communicate anticipatory with fat- and bone-tissue, liver and the brain – and this state leads to an altered myokine response, explaining why excessive sitting is a cause of a whole network of NCDs. A cumulative health-detrimental cascade has started.

Stop this - lie down! It is crucial. You will reduce your tension 20% in an instant as I have proved this in my thesis. Start your second heart (a term from space medicine) i.e. muscle system as pump, and activate the myokines army. A skier crossing the finish-line lies promptly down to get quick recovering from fatigue/excessive contraction-relaxation series, done on distance. The same is my recommendation to person excessively sitting – stop muscles isometric strain and recover you in lying position but doing exercises. Very simple but tested.

Recently I and my colleagues from Tallinn Technology University and Tartu University we did a Sitting Position Health - Social Innovation pilot study. Lying down has been seen as wrong from the times of one of the most influential medical papers ever written The Dangers of Going to Bed by Richard Asher 1947. But did we forget that lying horizontal is most natural recovering position? Every night and a third of a lifetime! Together 35 adult office workers in Tallinn City Office and Education Department left for 2 min per hour their chairs and were suggested to do recovering exercises supine on the exercise mat mimicking walking alternated upper member circles.

We also used pedometers to define overall activity and kinects/computer based system in evaluating the 2 min activity fulfilled horizontally. Subjectively perceived muscular pain and tension we registered pre and after one month lasted intervention. We are happy to say, that both pain and tension diminished significantly and feedback of participants was most positive – there was an eager in continuing these breaks in working day routine and another group of voluntaries required including in the project.

In frame of pilot we also created subjective Three Position Personally informative Upper Trapezius muscle Test (3PPUTT) – a method to establish that ones fingers are trustworthy to assess qualitative difference in muscle mechanical states between upright standing, sitting and lying positions, analogically to Myoton device invented by Dr. Arved Vain (Tartu University, Estonia) which gives quantitative information. People were surprised Wow! I myself can assess something which happens to my muscles lying down, and got inspiration to start with horizontal exercising.

UN, WHO and the World Bank emphasize that NCDs and sedentary lifestyle are not just a problem among the elderly and the affluent; or only rich or only poor nations; it is a challenge for the international community, national governments, municipalities, non-governmental organization, the private sector, and of course, for all sitting persons. Problems arising from sitting don’t choose if the man or woman is sitting, white or blue collar is sitting, a driver, pilot or passenger is sitting, nor does it depend on where and what chair or couch is being used for sitting, nor if one is sitting at the computer or watching TV.

We call all stakeholders and relevant institutions in Estonia to join our cost-effective action. According to the World economic forum, in the next 20 years, these diseases will cost the global economy $ 47 trillion, more than the world financial crisis, and will halt the growth of the global economy in the near years up to 4% per year. With the reducing number of workability aged healthy people Estonian society is especially critical.

People might consider them fit and healthy with a low risk of NCDs because exercise regularly. Certainly for prevention of the NCDs commonly moderate or vigorous physical activity is proposed. It is good for health but not solve a problem – too much sitting is not the behavioral equivalent of exercising too little. For example too much sitting can cause deep venous thrombosis, not too little exercise.

Recent studies have identified unique mechanisms of sitting that are distinct from the biologic bases of exercising. One can be both sedentary and physically active, e.g. someone who jogs regularly but sits most of his working hours and watching TV at nights, so called “Active couch potato”. However, muscular system and common light intensity physical activity is a key to solve the problem because one can gather much steps every day. Indeed, every step done will give us longer and healthier life. 

Kids are our future. As excessive sitting by our youth and the accumulation of non-communicable diseases that threaten them is a serious problem, we have with Estonian Society of Human Studies and at the moment with 9 schools in different areas in Estonia, a common plan of action to give to students in 6th and 8th grades an overview of the role of the muscular system (up to 40% of body weight) and change of it in weightlessness of Space, and how to bring this knowledge with youths own interests and ideas to everyday life on the Earth, so to keep oneself healthy.

To get motivational info, students familiarize themselves with MyotonPro® device which have been used in parabola-flight microgravity studies, they can themselves measure what sitting demands from the muscles and they register subjective muscle test (3PPUTT) results to web-platform.

We will not hold our experience quietly. We have already promised 3PPUTT test to use over half of thousand colleagues in Sedentary Behavior Research Network. And we are happy to give this test also to NCD Action YP-CDN young professionals over thousand members. We should enhance overall understanding of detrimental effect of excessive sitting. The purpose is globally common - to feel joy and be happy from motional life and to be ably to use the chair - the most used instrument of all - in a health saving way!

Thanks, Ragnar

Views: 1759

Tags: Sitting

Comment by Ragnar Viir on May 6, 2014 at 0:18

`Sitting is killing´ is heard everywhere, but solutions that are offered for sedentary behavior and avoidance of NCDs are expensive, for example, how Google coddles their workers or Mayo Clinic offers the chance to work while walking on a treadmill.  For sitting office workers filling skyscrapers, the solution should be simple, cheap, and should waste the employers’ time.

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of YP-CDN to add comments!


Language Settings


© 2014   Created by NCD Action Network Team.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service