Are You Sitting Yourself to Death?

There has been a recent awakening across the health and wellness industry of the detrimental effects sitting for more than 6-8 hours a day can have on your health. You’ve likely seen the headlines claiming that sitting is the new smoking. Meaning, that its adverse health effects are responsible for claiming many lives. Countless studies have recently come to light, linking chronic sitting to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and kidney disease (all health issues that typically related to obesity).

When the headlines broke warning the world of the harm we are doing to our bodies by simply sitting all day, we came up with a logical straightforward solution: we started to stand. Standing workstations have become widely popular across professional office environments where most employees are captives to their computer screens until their workday is done. But the end of the workday doesn’t mean an end to sitting. Most of us leave work and sit in our cars as we drive home, where we sit and eat dinner, and then sit (or lie) while we binge-watch our favorite show to drown out the stress of the day. While standing workstations are a great option for employees, they don’t stand a chance at reversing the effects of all the sitting the average person does in a day.

In fact, since those jarring headlines filled up our newsfeeds (which we ironically read while sitting) and we all began standing up to work, we’ve learned that it’s not sitting that’s the problem. Rather, it’s being sedentary that is causing our health to plummet.

A sedentary lifestyle is one in which an individual performs little to no movement for 60-90 minutes at a time, multiple times a day. And that doesn’t just include sitting or lying down but also, standing (gasp!). Standing desks aren’t going to save you if you are standing at the same workstation for prolonged periods without moving. In fact, studies have shown that the benefits of standing all day at a workstation is only marginally better than sitting all day at a workstation.

What does this mean for the walls of your heart and the size of your waist? What it means is that we need to find ways and time to fit activity into our days and that doesn’t simply mean jumping on the treadmill for 30 minutes after work. The kicker here that should really scare you is that going to the gym religiously after work each day doesn’t mean anything when it comes to battling the endless hours you spend sedentary. The only way to fight the effects of not moving for long consecutive hours is to NOT sit for long consecutive hours.

Making a point to move every hour for 2-5 minutes will greatly improve your mental clarity as well as fight the effects of our sedentary culture. Below are some ideas of how you can add movement to your day to avoid being sedentary for too long.

6 Ways to Add Movement to your Day

Schedule It. Most of us live and breathe by our electronic calendars so what better way to make sure we are moving every hour than by adding an appointment to your calendar at the top of every hour for 5 minutes. You may not be able to jump up out of your seat every time your appointment reminder dings, but it is a step towards getting in the routine of moving.

Say Hello. If you work in an open office environment, a great opportunity to move is to take a walk around your office and say hello to your co-workers.

Stretch. Moving every hour doesn’t mean doing sprints. In fact, using your move breaks to stretch might be exactly what the doctor ordered. The ergonomics of sitting hunched over a computer all day do a number to your neck, shoulders and back. Take a few minutes to show them some love.

Start your Heart. A great and impactful way to use your move break is to do a 4-minute Tabata exercise. A Tabata exercise can be any exercise or combination of exercises you choose. You will perform the exercise for 20 seconds followed by a 10-second rest. Continue this until your 4-minutes is up, then get back to answering emails.

Strength in Numbers. Chances are there are others in your office just as aware of how much they are sitting and just as worried about the long-term effects. Let your co-workers know that they are welcome to join your stretch break, Tabata break or office walk. Invite them to your schedule appointment so it is on their calendar as well!

Start Small. As with any new routine, the best way to see success here is to start small. It may feel overwhelming to think about getting up every hour. You might feel uncomfortable walking around your office or stretching in front of your co-workers. Begin with scheduling in 2 move breaks each day on the first week and then have a plan to gradually increase. By doing this you will start building a new routine to keep you healthy for the long-haul.