Are you a chain-sitter? We’ve all heard that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for our health, yet many of our daily activities involve sitting for long periods of time – while driving, working at a computer or desk, when in a class, concert, church, or meeting, while dining, or on the sofa at home. The hours we spend sitting can add up quickly.
Most Americans sit for more than six hours a day. And the World Health Organization has already identified physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, ahead of obesity.
Can sitting really be as bad for our health as smoking? Here’s a list of just some of the detrimental health effects of a sedentary lifestyle:
- Boosts the risk of heart disease – people who sit during work have double the rate of cardiovascular disease than people who stand while working.
- Increases the risk of developing various cancers. According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, “When the highest levels of sedentary behavior were compared to the lowest, the researchers found a statistically significantly higher risk for three types of cancer – colon, endometrial and lung. Moreover, the risk increased with each two-hour increase in sitting time. That sedentariness has a detrimental impact on cancer even among physically active persons implies that limiting time spent sedentary may play an important role in preventing cancer.”
- Leads to weight gain.
- Increases the likelihood of diabetes. The Huffington Post reported, “…the results of 18 studies with nearly 800,000 participants determined that those who sat the most were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as individuals who sat least.”
- The enzyme (LPL or lipoprotein lipase) that breaks down fat and uses it as energy, drops 90% while you sit, thus causing fat storage.
- Lowers your quality and expression of life, which can lead to depression.
So what can you do?
Of course one single exercise session can’t reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, but studies suggest that reducing the time we spend sitting, and increasing the time we spend standing throughout the day, is the best solution.
Try these activities:
- Walk up and down the stairs for five minutes.
- Walk out to your car and back or around the exterior of the building. A walk in the fresh air and sunshine is rejuvenating and a stress reducer.
- Jump on a rebounder (mini-trampoline) to stimulate blood circulation and the lymphatic system, to boost energy and metabolism, to burn carbohydrates and reduce body fat, improving your muscle to fat ratio and more.
- Exercise in place by doing any of these: jumping jacks, leg stretches, running in place, pushups against a desk or wall. Or use a resistance band to exercise and tone your shoulders and arms. Resistance bands are light and easy to carry in your purse or briefcase. Keep one handy in your desk drawer for daily use.
- Stand up and stretch every hour to ease stress, relieve muscle tension, increase circulation, and more.
- Try these at-work stretches you can do at your desk: Neck side stretch, shoulder shrugs, calf raises, and chair squats. Fore more ideas, click here.
- Do one chore. If you work from home, spend five minutes every hour performing a physical task. In five minutes you can do one or more of the following: toss a load of clothes in the washing machine or dryer, fold clothes while standing, vacuum a room, clean a mirror, or take out the garbage.
Need help remembering to take a break from the computer? Set a timer. Every hour get up and get moving.
Sit-Stand Desk Solutions
To counter the ill effects of prolonged sitting, a change of desks or work station may be the solution, especially for those of us that use the computer for hours each day. Look into desks that help minimize sitting time, such as standing desks, which allow you to use your computer or desk top while standing; adjustable sit-stand work stations or computer stands, or treadmill desks and workstations.