Sitting is bad for your health. Whether you’re sitting at a desk doing work, in a classroom listening to a lecture, or on a ship sailing the ocean, research suggests extended periods of sedentary behavior may increase the likelihood of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer, as well as poor mental health. No one is sure why sitting is such a problem, but it is. According to The New York Times researchers have found:1“…After an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting, they add, slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. Those are risk factors toward developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”
Adding insult to injury is the fact risk levels don’t change even if you hit the gym for a tough workout after sitting all day.1 An Australian study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found people who sit for more than 11 hours a day have a much higher risk of dying within three years than more active people. The odds were better for people who exercised five or more hours a week, but exercise didn’t entirely offset the negative effects of sitting.2 You like to move it, move it…
According to The Economist, “A typical car-driving, television-watching cubicle slave would have to walk an extra 19 km (about 12 miles) a day to match the physical-activity levels of the few remaining people who still live as hunter-gatherers.”3 Fortunately, research hasn’t indicated a hunter-gatherer level of activity is required to improve health outcomes. You don’t even have to join a gym, according to the experts. Just engage in moderate activity throughout the day. Here are some suggestions for becoming more active:
- Stand up. Standing requires muscle activity and supports processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. In other words, it has a far different effect on the body than sitting. Standing desks are widely available as are options to convert a regular desk into a standing desk.1
- Get a smart watch. Fitbit, Apple Watch and others can be very helpful to track your activity during the day and remind you to get moving. They also can provide you handy reports so you can see your activity today in the broader context of your week or month (or more).
- Break it up. Walk for two minutes every 20 minutes or so. Do a lap around your building or walk to a colleague’s office for a chat instead of sending an email.3
- Engage in desk-ercise. This idea may not be practical for most, but perhaps it’ll spark an idea. Look into exercise equipment for your desk. Depending on your preferences, you may opt for elliptical paddles, cycle pedals, or a skateboard platform. If you have more disposable income, you may want to invest in a treadmill desk.1
No matter how you do it – making trips to the grocery store on foot, gardening in the cool evening hours, walking with colleagues instead of sitting at a conference table, or being active in other ways – building leisurely activity into your day has the potential to greatly improve your health.