In recent months, there was an article headline that proclaimed that sitting has become the new secondhand smoking. Most of us know that there’s a recommendation to exercise at least 30 minutes at least five days a week, but new research is showing that this may not be enough to keep you healthy if you’re otherwise sedentary.
For many people, a typical day looks something like this: wake up in the morning and sit in your car on the ride to work. Once at work, you plop down in your office chair for a few hours, before you get up for lunch (which you sit to enjoy), and then you return to your desk and sit out the rest of your eight hour work day. You then get back in the car (more sitting) and drive home. You may stop at the gym and work up a sweat for an hour – or do 30 minutes of yoga when you get home from work. After you shower, you spend the rest of the night sitting on your couch watching your favorite TV shows or reading.
The problem is that this 30 to 60 minutes of activity that you squeeze into your day is not enough to counteract the 10, 12, or 16 hours that you spend sitting the rest of the time. Prolonged sitting is associated with heart disease, increased risk of diabetes, neck and muscle strain, muscle degeneration, poor circulation in legs, and damage to the spine and back. In addition to this, researchers found that the increased sitting during the work day also led to a decreased calorie burn – around 100 calories per day.
The obvious solution may be to just stand, rather than sit, as the increase in production of stand-up desks would have to believe; but it’s actually not that simple. The key to counteracting the risk of these health problems is to make sure you have the correct posture when sitting and to incorporate more movement into your day.
So what can you do?
- Sit or stand on something wobbly. If you have a sitting desk, a stability ball is a great way to keep your core engaged and your body moving slightly throughout the day. You should be sitting up straight with your feet flat on the floor to take full advantage. If you’ve invested in a standing desk, you can purchase a balance board that you can stand on during the day. Like a stability ball, a balance board focuses you to correct your posture and keep your core engaged.
- Alternate between sitting and standing. If you’re forced to sit at a desk all day, take a 3 to 4 minute break every hour. Get up and walk to the water cooler or go up and down a flight of stairs a few times. If you’re watching TV, make an effort to move during the commercials. Stand up and jog in place or do some stretching.
- After you eat your lunch, take a leisurely stroll with your co-workers; or suggest having a meeting while walking labs around your work building, if that’s an option, instead of sitting in a conference room for an hour.
- Stand up whenever you have to make or receive a phone call. You can up the movement factor by shifting your weight from foot to foot every so often while you’re standing.
- Every time you need to use the restroom, take the stairs to a facility on a different floor. Better yet, go two floors up.
Do you have any other ideas to keep you moving throughout the day at work? If so, we want to hear them!