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Sitting for many hours each day can increase cardiovascular disease and mortality risk, likely because this sedentary behavior entails reduced levels of muscle activity and muscle metabolism. However, human evolutionary pressures favor energy-conserving strategies, such as rest.
To resolve this seeming contradiction, a team of scientists studied inactivity in a group of Tanzanian hunter-gatherers, the Hadza. They found the Hadza had high levels of both physical activity – more than triple the 22 minutes per day minimum recommended by US health guidelines – and inactivity. The Hadza were sedentary for approximately as much time (9 to 10 hours per day) as people in industrialized societies, but they appeared to lack the physiological markers of chronic disease seen in these societies, where sitting in chairs is the norm.
David Raichlen, lead author of the study, said: “One of the key differences we noticed is that the Hadza are often resting in postures that require their muscles to maintain light levels of activity – either in a squat or kneeling.” He noted that muscle activity requires the burning of fuel, generally fats, which could make these postures more healthful than chair sitting.
Although Raichlen admits that, in developed countries, “squatting is not a likely alternative” to sitting, practicing more active resting postures could offer better protection from the harmful effects of inactivity.
Sources: Squatting and kneeling may be better for your health than sitting. USC News, March 9, 2020. news.usc.edu/166572/squatting-kneeling-health-sitting-usc-research.
Raichlen DA, et al. Sitting, squatting, and the evolutionary biology of human inactivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020; 117(13):7115-21. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1911868117.
Published in the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing
Spring 2020 | Volume 44, Number 1
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