Ask Well: Is Lying Down as Bad for You as Sitting?
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS NOVEMBER 19, 2015 5:45 AM November 19, 2015 5:45 am
The studies about the deleterious effects of sitting make me wonder if this is strictly related to the sitting posture (knees bent, back straight, feet on floor), or is it the inactivity that’s the culprit? Is lying in bed as bad as sitting and reading?
Reader Question • 1276 votes
The short answer is that inactivity is the culprit, whether you are sitting or lying down.
“The mode or type of sedentary behavior doesn’t matter,” said John P. Thyfault, an associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City who has conducted many studies of inactivity.
The problem is that we don’t use our legs when we sit or lie prone. Our legs and backside contain some of the largest muscles in our body, which contract robustly when we are upright. In the process, they use blood sugar to fuel themselves and stimulate the release of biochemicals that favorably affect cholesterol levels and other metabolic processes.
None of that happens when we sit in a chair or lounge in bed. Instead, our big muscles are slack and levels of blood sugar and bad cholesterol rise. In a fascinating 2010 study co-authored by Dr. Thyfault, healthy young men were asked to make themselves sedentary. They could choose their preferred inactivity — driving to work, for instance, instead of walking or reading more in bed or sitting in front of the television for hours — as long as they got off their feet as much as possible.
Within two weeks of being more sedentary, these previously healthy young men had begun to develop metabolic problems, including serious insulin resistance, whether they had spent their inactive time primarily sitting or in bed.
“Lying down will have the same deleterious effects” as sitting, Dr. Thyfault said.
The one exception, of course, is sleep. Our bodies need those eight hours or so of being prone in order to complete various physiological repair processes.
But when we are awake, Dr. Thyfault said, the more we can stand up and move, the better.
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Posted but not written by: Louis Sheehan