Have you heard the latest adage that sitting is the new smoking? When is the last time you did an audit of how much you sit? Take a minute to calculate how much time you spend at your desk, on the couch, in your car driving and sitting in general.
Health effects of sitting too much
While sitting for brief periods is normal, long periods of sitting every day can affect your health and shorten your lifespan.Let’s look at the science surrounding our sedentary lifestyle and what to do about it.
Katy Bowman, a scientist wrote a book called Move Your DNA. Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement. She told Reuters of a new term called “Actively sedentary” It’s a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sit around the rest of the day. “You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”
Here’s what happens as soon as you sit down
- Electrical activity in the legs shuts off.
- Calorie burning drops to 1 per minute.
- Enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90%.
- After two hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops by 20%.
- And after 24 hours insulin effectiveness drops by 24% and the risk of diabetes rises.
The statistics of days, months and years of sitting are staggering. Here are a few of these health risks.
- Heart disease
- Colon cancer
- Sluggish digestion
- Brain damage
- Strained neck and shoulders
- Back problems
- Postural issues
- Muscle degeneration
- Weak bones
- Varicose veins
Wow, all that just from sitting! Dr. James Levine is the co-director of the Mayo Clinic and of the Arizona State University Obesity Initiative. He authored a book called Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.He has dedicated a good part of his career to investigating the health effects of sitting. His investigations show that when you get up after sitting for long periods of time, a number of molecular cascades occur.For example, within 90 seconds of standing up, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol activate.
How to move more while working
It’s clear then that we need to get up and move more often. Taking what I call ‘movement breaks’ throughout the day is crucial. Here are some ideas to move more during the working day.
- Stand while talking on the phone
- Get up to collect your print job from the printer
- Walk to the kitchen to pour and drink a glass of water
- Take regular loo breaks
- Build a standing desk and alternate sitting and standing every hour
- Use a rebounder in your office or at home and bounce for 5 minutes
- Hold ‘plank’ for 30 seconds
- Do 10 star jumps
- Hold walking meetings with your colleagues
- Walk to a co-worker instead of sending an email
- Use an exercise ball for a chair.
There’s even chair yoga to get you moving while seated! It’s great for blood circulation, increased concentration and productivity and a calmer mind.
How long do you need to move for?
Ideally, you want to move for 10 minutes per hour and this is not always possible at work. It’s good to know that even getting up for two minutes per hour can reduce the effects of sitting.
Creative ways to bring more movement into your daily life
- Park further from the entrance at the grocery shop.
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator.
- Get up and move around during the ad breaks of your favourite TV show.
Lastly, movement is not the same as exercise. Studies have shown that 30-60 minutes of exercise per day does not counteract the effects of sitting for 10 hours. It’s important to include more movement throughout your day. You’ll feel the benefits.
What is your top tip for adding more movement to your day?
Please share in the comments below!