Before we had modern conveniences, people didn’t have to worry about getting enough exercise. And certainly there was no widespread public health challenge caused by too much sitting. Unfortunately, today many of us spend far more time sitting than we realize. We are sedentary, and it has the potential to do us in.
Significant Health Risks
Desk jobs, driving and TV-watching are common. A new study shows that even if you exercise, too much sitting can increase your risk of disease or your chance of developing a chronic condition – health threats such as type 2 diabetes, heart problems, even cancer. That means too much sitting could ultimately kill you. If you sit more than 8-12 hours a day, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is 90% higher.
This warning comes from researchers in Toronto. They analyzed results of 47 separate studies of sedentary behavior, factoring in exercise amounts to learn if increased activity offsets sitting. Findings showed it does not. The World Health Organization reports physical inactivity is the fourth-highest death risk factor, globally.
Get Up and Move Around
The more you exercise, the more it helps, but it still does not trump “chair time.” Here are some easy ways you can counteract the effects of sitting.
- Track how much time you sit throughout the day. You may be unpleasantly surprised, but knowing will help you consciously reduce seat time.
- When you’re watching TV, use commercial breaks to get up and jog in place or move around the room. Simply standing up will help.
- At the office, take the stairs. Stand while you’re talking on the phone. Move your laptop to a table or counter to work, so you can stand. Walk to a colleague’s desk to speak with her rather than messaging. Hold meetings while walking around the office or taking a stroll outside.
Exercise at the Office
You can easily fit these activities into your day, whether you’re at work or at home. You won’t break a sweat, or a nail, but you will feel better, and you’ll feel better about yourself.
- Never sit down without doing five squats first. Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart and your back straight, start to sit until you just feel the chair, then rise again.
- Swivel back and forth in your chair, keeping your back straight and your fingertips on the edge of the desk in front of you.
- Use the edge of your desk or a counter to do some incline pushups. Keep your back straight and your arms slightly farther apart than shoulder-width. If this is too difficult, start by pushing off from the wall rather than up from something lower.
- Tone your glutes by standing up straight and lifting one leg straight back while squeezing muscles on that side. Repeat with the other side. Balance yourself by placing your fingertips on a wall or counter, if you need to.
- Unplug your laptop and use it as a weight to do some bicep curls on each side – hold it down to your side, then bring it up to your shoulder. If you don’t have a laptop, use something else of modest weight that you can easily grasp – a full water bottle, large stapler, a binder or a book.
Set A Goal to Sit Less
Now that you know why health professionals call sitting a “silent killer,” you can be more aware of how much time you spend behind your desk, behind the wheel or on the sofa. Hopefully, you will also be motivated to stand up and move around more, instead.