Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Sitting down can send you to an early grave: Why sofas (and your office chair) should carry a health warning...

Cripes!  I should be dead by now!  There are a whole host of studies quoted below  -- far too many for me to go though -- but I gather that they are mostly correlational, which proves nothing

Are you sitting comfortably? Well, don’t. A welter of medical evidence is suggesting that the act of placing your derriere on a seat can cut years off your life.

It seems armchairs, office chairs and sofas can be fatal. Sitting down is increasingly being linked to some of the modern world’s most toxic epidemics, from cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure to stroke.

Last week, researchers at Leicester University added to this grim jigsaw by reporting that time spent sitting is strongly associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

But now, the vast majority of most people’s days are spent sitting — on the commute to work, at work, travelling home, then at the dining table, and lastly on the sofa in front of the TV. On average, it adds up to around ten hours of seatedness a day.

The Leicester University research suggests spending hours sitting down causes the body to accumulate dangerously high levels of sugars and fats in your bloodstream — significantly raising the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Other research last month of more than 60,000 middle-age men by the University of Western Sydney found those who sit more than four hours a day are more likely to experience chronic ailments, such as cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Emma George, the lead researcher, says: ‘The rates of chronic diseases reported by the participants exponentially increased in proportion with the amount of time the participants spent sitting down.’

These problems were independent of other health factors such as age, body-mass index and level of physical activity, according to the report in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The result, according to another Australian study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine last year, is that people who sit for 11 or more hours a day have a 40 per cent increase in their risk of dying over the next three years, compared with those who sit for only four hours a day.

But why is sitting so dreadful? It seems our bodies were primarily designed for fidgeting around and trying to stand upright.

When we stand, our muscles contract to stop us falling flat on our face. We engage our muscles when we are standing and even more when we walk around. And muscles have an important role in helping to regulate many of our physiological processes.

Muscle contractions help the body to take sugar out of our bloodstreams and use it for energy. The muscles that keep us standing up also seem to produce more of the enzymes that break down fats in the blood, says the Leicester University team.

One danger of sitting for too long is ‘seated immobility syndrome’. The first case was identified in a South Korean medical journal in 2004. The victim, a 24-year-old man, had blood clots in his legs after sitting in the same chair for 80 hours playing an internet game. He needed emergency surgery to save his life.

Since then, the phenomenon has been investigated by Richard Beasley, of Wellington Hospital in New Zealand. He warns that the pressure on the back of the thigh from the front edge of the seat can slow down blood flow.

But are there any practical alternatives to sitting down all day if you work in an office?

The past ten years have seen attempts by bosses to get their staff on their feet, with upright ‘working stations’, and areas for ‘dynamic meeting spaces’ where people can stand and talk. Or they have simply taken chairs away.

However, other research shows how standing up at work seems to encourage people to slack off.

A study of Australian office workers in the journal Human Factors in 2009 found that people perform best at computer tasks when sitting. Standing reduced their work-rate slightly — while walking around while working had an even worse impact.

Asking staff to swap their chairs for stability balls does not help, either. These are designed to make people engage leg and back muscles constantly to stay upright.

However, a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene this year found that while 200 office workers who sat on stability balls for three months cut their levels of lower back pain by more than half, more than  45 per cent of staff reported that the balls had caused significant pain elsewhere with regular use.


Sex cures migraines?

A lot of men might get lucky over this

A team of neurologists found that sexual activity can lead to “partial or complete relief” of head pain in some migraines.

The study, from the University of Munster, Germany, suggests that instead of using a sore head as an excuse to refuse sex, making love can be more effective than taking painkillers.

Their research, reported in Cephalalgia, the journal of the International Headache Society, found that more than half of migraine sufferers who had sex during an episode experienced an improvement in symptoms.

One in five patients left without any pain at all, while others, in particular male sufferers “even used sexual activity as a therapeutic tool”, they added.

They suggested that sex triggered the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, through the central nervous system, which can in turn reduce, or even eliminate, a headache.

“The majority of patients with migraine or cluster headache do not have sexual activity during headache attacks,” the study concluded.

“Our data suggest, however, that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and a few cluster headache patients.

“Our results show that sexual activity during a migraine attack might relieve or even stop an attack in some cases, and that sexual activity in the presence of headache is not an unusual behaviour.”

They added: “Sex can abort migraine and cluster headache attacks, and sexual activity is used by some patients as acute headache treatment.”

In their research, titled “The impact of sexual activity on idiopathic headaches: An observational study”, the team of neurologists investigated whether sex can trigger headaches.

They also wanted to establish whether there was any substance to anecdotal suggestions that it could actually ease symptoms of migraine and cluster, also known as one-sided, headaches.

An anonymous questionnaire was sent to 800 random migraine patients and 200 similar cluster headache sufferers.

They asked for experience with sexual activity during a headache attack and its impact on headache intensity.

More than a third of migraine patients had experience with sexual activity during an attack and out of these patients, almost two in three reported an “improvement of their migraine attack”.

Almost three in four reported moderate to complete relief and a third reported it worsening.

Those suffering a cluster headache, almost a third had experience with sexual activity, with 37 per cent reporting an improvement to their condition. More than 90 per cent reported moderate to complete relief while 50 reported worsening.

The researchers added: “Some patients, in particular male migraine patients, even used sexual activity as a therapeutic tool.”


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