We are sedentary for 21 hours a day, according to juststand.org. The Washington Post wrote that the average office worker sits for about 10 hours a day, a combination of work and at-home chair-surfing. It’s a no-brainer that all this sitting is bad for your health. Yet many of us are unknowingly putting ourselves at risk for major health problems.
One morning last week, I drove about 5 hours to a conference in Indianapolis, IN. That afternoon I sat in 3 hours of informative sessions, followed by a couple of hours of sitting while socializing over dinner and chatting with colleagues. That’s about 10 hours of sitting. Yikes!
Today, I sat in the car on my way to work, sat at my desk catching up on email, and sat in 3 hours of meetings. Sound familiar to you?
Fortunately, everyday isn’t like this for me. But it is for many.
Why Not Sit?
Here are 5 powerful reasons to get off your duff.
- Numerous studies have documented the risks of too much sitting. Prolonged sitting increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, and depression.
- After 30 minutes of sitting, the enzymes that break down fat drop by 90%.
- We only burn about 1 calorie per minute while sitting. Standing instead of sitting burns 20 to 50 more calories per hour.
- After 2 hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops by 20%.
- Sitting too much can lead to muscle and joint problems.
What If You Exercise?
Experts say that vigorous exercise before or after work may not be enough to overcome the dangers of over-sitting (okay, so I made that term up).
One study by Dr. James Levine, obesity researcher for Mayo Clinic, sought to determine why some people gain weight and others don’t even when they eat exactly the same food. As a control factor, researchers didn’t let subjects exercise during the study. The results of the study revealed that “the people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more.”
Researchers urge us to view sitting time and exercise independently. “It is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and half hours,” said Dr. Alter, Senior Scientist, Toronto Rehab, University Health Network (UHN), and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
Furthering the point, an article published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health highlights that people in the high fitness group had only about a quarter of the risk of developing metabolic syndrome (a compilation of risk factors) as the lowest fitness group.
How To Get Off Your Duff
At this point, hopefully you can acknowledge that excessive sitting is a risk we should aim to avoid. The next logical question is, How do I sit less?
A statement by the British Journal of Sports Medicine urges Americans to “stand, move, and take breaks” for a minimum of 2 out of 8 hours in the work day, but with an aim of 4 hours. In other words, spend at least 2 hours out of your chair.
Check out this terrific infographic by visual.ly. It provides a few suggestions for how we can move more: stretching, walking in place, or doing jumping jacks.
Stand to talk on the phone. When conversing with a colleague, stand instead of sit. Don’t send an email to Robert who works down the hall; get up and go talk to him.
One university professor gives her class a “5-minute-activity-break” in the middle of any class that lasts longer than an hour. Some companies hold standing meetings or meet while walking through a nearby park. Company exercise clubs are growing. Devices like the Apple watch will even tell you when it’s time to get off your duff.
Take a walk on your lunch break. A 20 min. walk increases blood flow and creativity, enhances brain activity, and improves memory and cognitive performance. A walk actually helps you be more productive.
Stand up desks are growing in popularity. As I’m writing this, my laptop is sitting on a stack of books on my desk so I can stand and write.
Stop Sitting, Be Productive, Stay Healthy
Clearly, sitting has become the latest danger to our health, whether we are fit or not. Exercise is important but doesn’t fix this particular problem. We should find alternative ways to welcome others than, “Come in, have a seat.” Let’s promote a more healthy work and home environment. We must get creative. We must get moving. We must get off our duffs.
Question: What is one way to move more today? Leave your ideas in the comments to this post.