How to Follow the Olympics

They are upon us: the games of the 30th modern Olympiad in London. I know you can’t wait to see the 100-meter sprint crown the fastest man in the world. Or see if anyone can best Michael Phelp’s record of most gold medals achieved in a single Olympics (8). But, whatever you do, don’t watch the whole thing from the couch.

The Truth About Sitting

Why? Because sitting is bad for you. Sure, we’ve discussed this before, but another reminder is good for you. Oh, and another study was recently published that pounds even more coffin nails into the issue.
Right smack in the middle of the hammock swinging, lazy days of summer, a U.S. based meta-analysis confirms that, yes, sitting is a disease that kills. The study analyzed five prior reports involving 167,000 people over 4 to 14 years and looked at the effects of sedentary behavior on life expectancy. Here is what they found:

  • By sitting less than 3 hours daily, you can add two years to your life expectancy
  • By watching less than 2 hours of TV daily, you can add 1.4 years to your life expectancy

For comparison, other studies have suggested that obesity lowers life expectancy by 1.3 years and that smoking lowers it by 2 years. So sitting too much is starting to smell a lot like a real disease.
Now for the caveats. Recall that a meta-analysis is not the holy grail of study designs (e.g. a randomized trial of different behaviors and lifestyles, an impossible study to perform). Another limitation is that sedentary behavior was self-reported and not formally measured, which certain limits the study’s validity. Nonetheless, it confirms the findings of other studies that suggest that excessive TV watching is associated with early mortality.

Five Ways to Avoid “Sedentary Olympicitis”

There are 3500 hours of Olympic coverage planned for 2012. Please pace yourself and consider the following alternative to dating the couch:

  1. Stand and pound the air when watching any American in any Olympic event.
  2. Meet your buddies for club soda at a bar and stand, yell and hoot while you watch the relays.
  3. Pull out that radio and earplugs or listen live stream to the Olympics while running or mowing the lawn.
  4. Watch the Olympics while on the Stairmaster in the gym or at home.
  5. Record the Olympics each day and play it back while standing in kitchen preparing your paleo meal.

And remember Nietzsche’s words as you partake in the athletic splendor that is the Olympics: “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”