Don’t Take This Sitting Down…Stand Up for Your Health
Excessive sitting has been called the new smoking — after all, study after study shows how dangerous it is. And worse, no one is safe. It doesn’t matter if you are completely sedentary or training for a marathon: If you spend the majority of your day sitting, it’s affecting your health. That’s the bad news. The good news is that with awareness and intention, we can do something about it – and it doesn’t involve taking more supplements or buying more equipment! And it doesn’t matter how athletic or how energetic you are. It doesn’t even matter how disciplined you are. A few tweaks to your daily sedentary routine is all it takes to make a big difference. And don’t we love to get a big return on a little bit of effort? But before we get to the solution, let’s assess the problem.
The truth is that most of us underestimate the amount of time we sit. How much are you really sitting every day? Check off all the time you sit (and maybe add a few to the list.)
___ to eat breakfast
___ in the car or train on the way to work
___ at a desk for much/most of the day
___ at lunch
___ at meetings
___ on the drive home
___ during dinner
___ while watching TV or reading in the evening
___ checking out social media and personal computer time
___ watching your kids at games or practice (and driving to get them there!)
Now ask yourself how much you regularly interrupt these activities with movement. You see even the person who does an hour workout every day (awesome) or rides his bicycle to work daily (kudos there), may still be sitting most of the day and is not exempt from the cost of doing so. A January 2015 review in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that prolonged sedentary time, no matter how much you work out, causes health problems.
Just how big of a problem is it anyway?
Sedentary lifestyles have become the norm. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the fourth-leading risk factor for death among adults around the world. Sitting for long periods of time causes physiologic changes in our bodies that can’t be undone with working out a few times per week. A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and poor bone density. Sitting for 8–12 hours per day increases the risk of type-2 diabetes by a whopping 90 percent!
I share this information, not to cause more stress or fear but to empower you through education and choice.
Start building movement into your workday by making small adjustments such as:
A recent Wall Street Journal article recommended that for every half hour of computer work, an employee should sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8, and walk for 2.
The Good News
The movement required to address the dangers of excessive sitting don’t require much time or energy. Just remembering to stand for a moment interrupts the problem. A NASA study found that standing up for 2 minutes 16 times during the workday improved muscular and bone health. This doesn’t, of course, take the place of daily walking, strength training, weekly yoga etc., but it does effectively minimize the health cost of uninterrupted sitting – something humans were not designed to do. Use your body the way it was designed. It’s not difficult. It just requires awareness.
Become aware and act on that awareness with simple movement. It is a small investment in your future health and wellbeing.