Sitting, at least too much, is a health hazard!

Buddhists, The Thinker and a fun ad for a nature chair a few years ago read, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” That is good advice for meditation and viewing nature, but it turns out that too much chair time is a health hazard itself. Prolonged physical inactivity, such as sitting, appears incompatible with true physical health. Blissful brains and bodies, it seems, should not sit for too long.

The modern workplace is a hazardous environment from the standpoint of discouraging physical activity. Most white collar worker are anchored to desk, computer and office chair. Electronic connectivity circumvents much need to physically move. Your body, however, has a physical need to move. We evolved as walking, running, moving beings. The modern environment can result in short movements from chair to chair to another chair, then to bed. This lifestyle is toxic in bypassing the needed effects of physical activity and movement. It is also obesogenic, fattening, especially when combined with an environment studded with cheap, calorie-dense foods. As it turns out, we have to earn the right to sit down, and pay for it with physical activity.

Even for people who exercise regularly it appears that prolonged sitting remains a health hazard. Apparently, jogging for an hour after work is not enough. To be healthy we must frequently step away from the chair and move. Recent Swedish research affirms that failure to get up out of the chair frequently enough can contribute to a host of modern maladies. Sitting in place, especially for over 4 hours, seems to upset the body’s metabolism. Control of fats and glucose is upset, predisposing one to such maladies as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and diabetes.

Remarkably, Australian researchers recently reported an 11% increase in deaths for each daily hour of sit down time in front of the television!. Heart disease risks increased nearly 20% for each TV hour per day, a finding independent of other health habits.

When sleeping, a 160 pound office worker burns about 1 calorie each minute, 60 calories per hour, or less than 500 during an 8 hour night’s sleep. This is not much less than the 1.2 calories per minute spent by the same person while sitting and reading, only about 72 calories per hour. Light office work is not much more, less than 2 calories per minute. The seated worker burns less than 1,000 calories over an 8 hour work day.

The perfect antidote to prolonged sitting is walking. Avoiding over-long periods of sitting by interspersing short walks is a solution available to most seated workers. It takes only seconds to get up and begin walking. Immediately the body gains huge benefits. Blood circulation, made sluggish by sitting, immediately speeds up as your heart begins to accommodate the new demands caused by standing up and walking. The heart speeds up, flushing blood through your system, more air pulses into your lungs to oxygenate the coursing blood.

Walking quickly, a 160 pound office worker now quickly triples the rate his or her body burns calories, to six calories per minute. Breaking into a run, at a 10 minute per mile pace of 6 miles per hour, the jogger can double again calories burned per minute to 12! That’s is a calorie burned each 5 seconds.  Alternatively, if you have access to stairs, taking a few quick flights up and down can quickly counteract the ill health effects of too much sitting.

At the workplace, until a just a few years ago, the cigarette break was viewed as a reasonable activity. In 2010, the cessation of work for the purpose of inhaling poisons is less common. Surely the “walking break” or “stair-climbing” break can now be seen as an important activity that not only invigorates employees, as well as reducing their health care costs. Avoiding maladies caused by excess sitting is basic to the open-source health and wellness model. So don’t just sit there, for too long at least.

A Cannabis Productivity Revolution

The liberation of cannabis from repressive laws around the globe will unleash a fountain of true human productivity. New foods, new fuels, new fibers and new medicines will issue forth when people are finally free to explore and expand the gifts of this plant. Americans in particular will be quick to exploit the multiple ways cannabis can serve to amplify human productivity when prohibition ends.

The most basic human needs are air, water and food. Regarding air, most of the physical structure of cannabis and other plants is made up of carbon atoms from carbon dioxide pulled out of the surrounding air. While the plant is consuming carbon from the atmosphere, it is also producing oxygen, each human’s most immediate need. The plant also transpires clean water vapor into the air, moisture that will return to earth as rain.

At its most elemental level, human productivity is about creating or gaining food to feed the family. The cannabis plant makes a stellar addition to humankind’s ability to produce nutritional plant foods. The seeds and oil of Cannabis Sativa are arguably nature’s most perfect foods. Cannabis hemp seeds and oil are filled with precious nutritional gems, including omega-3s, essential fatty acids and essential proteins. Silly regulations bluntly enforced by the DEA prevent fellow citizens from growing these powerhouse foodstuffs on American soil.

Shelled Hemp seed

Shelled Hemp seed

Currently, hemp seed and oil must be imported from China, where it is an ancient food, yet currently consumed each day. More hemp products come from Canada. None are grown in the USA, thanks to the DEA and cannabis’ Schedule I status.

So, let’s get this right, the so-called communist Chinese people have the personal liberty to grow and consume hemp, and to sell it to Americans. But the so-called free Americans are bludgeoned by our own government with long-prison terms and social and financial ruin if we plant this same crop?

Another basic aspect of human productivity is in providing clothing and shelter; people need clothes and they need places to live and to work. Again, hemp fibers from the cannabis plant offer bountiful resources. Hemp textiles are exploding in popularity. Part of their attraction is that cloth from hemp offers great environmental benefits, as compared to cotton.

Hemp textiles and clothing.

Hemp textiles and clothing.

In terms of working and building materials, hemp, of course, amplified the productivity of early Americans by providing them rope, canvass and a host of other materials. Deemed such an important contributor to colonial productivity and prosperity, some colonies required the growing of hemp. Its use declined with the availability of endless forests for wood building materials and with the introduction of oil-base synthetic fibers. With end of exploitative forestry and the passing of cheap oil, hemp fiber again has a great future as a source of construction material, building material and fiber for fabrication.

  • Many building materials incorporating organic material from cannabis sativa are gaining favor.
  • Hemp can be incorporated into fiber board, insulation, and hempcrete, a more natural form of concrete.
  • Productivity with these materials is multiplied. First, they are carbon negative, a crucial consideration in a warming world. Cannabis plant material comprising hempcrete and similar products sequesters carbon away, out of the atmosphere. Such materials may be locally sourced, as hemp can grow nearly anywhere, saving transportation and carbon costs.
  • Paper has been integral to mankind’s productivity ascent, as books and publications allowed idea sharing. But paper, when rendered from the wood of trees, exerts huge environmental costs. Hemp based paper, made from one year-old plants instead of centuries old trees could revolutionize, and clean up, the paper industry. Better paper products for less inputs equals true productivity.

Another aspect of the American economy in vast need of productivity improvements is health care. Huge cost increases in the American system have not resulted in superior health status. Other countries do far more for far less.

Cannabis, again, offers the American health care system a quantum leap from its pharmaceutical-based doldrums. The drug so outlawed by its Schedule I status as having no medical value now demonstrates its overwhelming medical, preventative and palliative benefits. As Americans demand their medical liberty in the coming years, the non-elected bureaucrats in the federal government will not much longer keep from its citizens this medication they demand.

True health care productivity is demonstrated when a patient can dispense with an entire array of debilitating pharmaceutical drugs after finding relief with medical cannabis. This is the actual case for many victims of disease, injury and pain. Relief is attained with far fewer narcotizing opioid drugs when supplemented (or even replaced) by phyto-cannabinoids, pain-relieving, inflammation-reducing, antioxidant molecules from the cannabis plant.

Even now in California, where voters have demanded cannabis medical liberty, health care innovation exploiting the plant is underway. New cannabis strains are being developed to best address the vast array of medical problems treatable with cannabis. Genetic mixtures of phyto-cannabinoids mix cannabinoid molecules such as THC, CBD, and THCV, to better treat different medical conditions. Novel harm-reducing ways of taking cannabis medicine have developed. Smoking has been replaced or supplemented with vaporization along with tinctures, teas, and edibles. The open-source nature of medical cannabis makes its economics exactly the opposite of pharmaceutical drugs it will, in many cases, replace.

Arguably, in a state in desperate need of jobs, innovation and prosperity, the most thriving new industry in California is the cannabis medicine sector.

Harm reduction is a term often associated with drug prohibition and enforcement.  This approach is diametrically opposite the American drug war harm maximization model that uses militarized police, private property forfeiture and decade’s long incarcerations for “crimes” involving nothing but a plant.

Harm minimization can also refer to productivity. Productivity gains made as a result of exploitative activities that cause environmental damage are false. A true productivity gain does not occur if the process of creating the product creates other, larger problems. Productivity is not true if it squanders resources and despoils surroundings. A mine that produces minerals for a few years, then despoils a stream for a century is not a productive resource.

Cannabis and hemp-based foods, fuels, fibers and medications do create opportunities for innovation, propel productivity increase, and gain prosperity in a way that minimizes harm. Every cannabis plant grown sequesters carbon dioxide. It is a local resource, open-source, available to everyone to grow, to innovate, to increase prosperity and to improve health.

The major impediment to these real world solutions are bureaucratic. Cannabis and hemp need to be freed from their dishonest and draconian Schedule I status. The jack-boot of the DEA needs to be removed from the necks of American citizens. Onerous international treaties, those that mandate prohibition of cannabis and its products, need be repudiated.

The planet and its people are in need of productivity and prosperity gains that don’t harm the biosphere. Americans, in this time of economic flux, need be able to explore and to use the huge productive resources of cannabis hemp. Much of this freedom could be attained from the rescheduling, by the President or Attorney General, of cannabis, hemp and cannabinoids from Schedule I to Schedule V.