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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Is My Passion for My Job Killing Me?

Published April 19, 2012 4:44 PM by Chuck Holt

I thoroughly enjoy editing articles. Whether written by a trio of PhDs, a CNO, a staff nurse writing for her first time, a freelance journalist or another ADVANCE editor, I just can't let a sentence be until it sounds right in my head.  A long-time telecommuter, I've often turned away from my computer after a long day to find my house has grown completely dark around me with the setting sun entirely unnoticed.    

Unfortunately, this means I sit - a lot, which apparently can be a very dangerous thing to do. In short, my job, or at least the way I approach it sometimes, may well be killing me.

That's according to a recently released study from a group of Australian researchers, "Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222,497 Australian Adults," the results from which suggest sitting for 8-11 hours a day combined with other lifestyle choices, e.g., sitting down with a cold beer and a slice of pizza to watch the game after sitting all day at work, can potentially kill a person.  

From more than 222,000 adults ages 45 and older surveyed between 2006 and 2008, the researchers found people who reported sitting for up to 11 hours a day were 40 percent more likely to die sooner than those who sat less than 4 hours daily.  That doesn't necessarily prove sitting alone shortens people's lives, of course, but it certainly is food for thought. 

The survey, the results from which are published in the March issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, also asked questions about participants' overall health and whether they smoked or used to smoke in addition to how much time they spent sitting and exercising, and if they had any pre-existing medical conditions.  

Thing is though, whether a person smoked or exercised a lot or not at all, or even if they were of normal weight, overweight or obese, made less of a difference to their longevity than did the simple act of sitting for extended hours, a common denominator in those 5,400 original survey participants who actually died during the study.

"When we give people messages about how much physical activity they should be doing, we also need to talk to them about reducing the amount of hours they spend sitting each day," lead author Hidde van der Ploeg of the University of Sydney reportedly said in releasing the results of the study.

Too much sitting may harm blood vessels and slow metabolism by increasing fats in the blood and lowering good cholesterol levels, she says. By contrast, when you are standing or walking, your leg muscles are constantly working which helps to clear blood glucose and blood fats from the blood stream.

So what can a person do?

Well, if you're a nurse who works on any floor of a hospital, sitting is obviously not as much of an issue for you as trying to find time to sit down and get off your feet.  

However, if you are a managerial or administrative type, or a nursing instructor or researcher perhaps who sits a lot while working, here are some tips I've read while searching the web since the results of the survey were announced:

  • 1. Make sure your telephone, printer and fax machine are far enough away from your desk that you have to get up from your chair to take or make a call, or to retrieve something.
  • 2. Park as far away from your building as time and weather allows, use the stairs once inside, etc.
  • 3. Take a walk on your lunch break if you get one.
  • 4. Stand up and stretch and say hi to a coworker, preferably one more than a few steps away from your cube.
  • 5. At night, do some chores while listening to your favorite TV show. You can always run over to your TV when your favorite Idol contestant comes on, which is actually more exercise.
  • 6. Buy a treadmill desk (my personal favorite).

How about you? Do you have any tips for getting out of your chair while working a desk job - and potentially living longer as a result?

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