Monday 26 September 2016

Jillian Godsil: It's time to take a stand against sitting down on the job

Jillian Godsil

Published 24/09/2015 | 02:30

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Everyone is up and at it. DJ and author Teena Gates was only just back from climbing Kilimanjaro and doing the Liffey swim when she announced that she is doing a couch to 10k for Christmas with fellow TV3 'Midday' colleague Elaine Crowley. Andrea Smith, is opting for the Camino Way in Spain and broadcaster John Murray is famous for his forced marches across the country.

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People are walking, cycling and swimming their way to fitness. Mamils (middle-aged men in lycra) gather in bunches on our roads and refuse to let traffic past. No one is allowed be still any more, at least not if they are carrying extra weight - or in good condition, as they say in the horsey world.

Andrea had become the face of the 'plus figure' brigade in Ireland (if that is not a non sequitur) ever since a high-profile spat with vitriolic UK journalist Katie Hopkins on 'The Late Late Show'.

Katie stuck to the line that fat people were lazy and would die young. Andrea was very dignified in her response, positing that there were worse things to die of and beauty was more than skin deep.

In fact, I salute Andrea for her unashamed approach, her lack of apology for being large and her total comfort in her figure. She is adamant that she is happy in her mind and her size does not bother her. In fact, she has frequently successfully argued that her mind was a lot saner than many a skinny bird.

Round one to Andrea then, except that she is now taking to the roads.

For the perils of sitting has reared its ugly head again. This time, sitting is the new smoking and we are all, but especially women, encouraged to get off our bottoms and get walking.

And while it is great to encourage exercise, it does appear that we have yet another stick to beat ourselves with, especially the women.

That prolonged sitting is detrimental to general health is a no-brainer. As a race, we have mutated from hunter gathers, to farmers, to industrial workers to office workers.

And in our spare time, we have also gravitated from activity-led leisure pursuits to screen-based, sedentary activities. We are inarguably less mobile both at work and at play.

Fertility coach Helena Tubridy argues that sitting is the biggest threat to conception. In her NLP-based (neuro-linguistic programming) coaching for couples, she tells the men to ditch the heated car seats (fried balls) and for the women to walk before they have sex.

Her armoury of self-help tools includes good walking boots.

Our bodies are not meant to sit for long periods of time and yet we are forced into it. At school children learn to sit down and be quiet. The chairs and tables are rarely ergonomically designed.

When we head into work, we use computer screens. This produces a very strange pecking-like position of the head stretched forward on the neck - is it any wonder we have endless back aches and strains?

More worrying is that when we sit for long periods on our gluteus maximus (that's our arses), strange things happen. The cheeks spread and the fat cells laid down are the wrong kind of fat cells. You won't get a Kim Kardashian bottom from sitting. In fact, I'm not sure how you'd get a Kim Kardashian bottom at all, except perhaps from surgery.

As you sit, your lungs crumple and flatten, not enough oxygen gets to the brain and that makes you sluggish. The normal reaction is not to rise and stretch, but reach for a chocolate hit or caffeine buzz instead.

Funnily enough while sitting is awful for your body, lying down or reclining is good. Your body is not crumpled and slouched, oxygen can travel with ease and those noxious triglycerides fat cells are not placed in neat rolls across your waist.

It was Churchill who instinctively took to his bed to fight the war. It kept him alert and focused and resisting death until he was 90 years of age, despite his endless cigar smoking.

However, I am uneasy about the new studies linking sitting to cancer, and especially to cancer in women. Is this yet another nail in the coffin for our choices? For every active woman that rises every 50 minutes to walk over to the water fountain, for every woman that prefers to make calls standing or to host meetings while walking, should she get cancer there will always be a suspicion that perhaps she was a secret sitter and it was her fault after all.

Irish Independent

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