Did you know that sitting down all day, especially if your work revolves around the computer, could be killing you? According to research sitting for long periods even if you are moderately active, could be putting your health at risk.
Besides giving you a bigger bottom, prolonged sitting can increase your risk of stroke, heart attacks, diabetes and obesity not to mention the toll on your mental health.
It’s no wonder that sitting is being dubbed the new smoking.
Just think for a moment how long you spend sitting down; the long 8-hour days at work, your commute across the city, the hours you spend answering emails, making Skype calls, poring over web research not to mention your social media habit and TV viewing.
It soon adds up to a worrying amount!
But if you think that working out at the gym 3 times a week will offset your sedentary lifestyle, think again.
A study reported in the New York Times that tracked 123, 000 adults from 1992-2006 found that adults who sat for 6 or more hours increased their risk of death by 20% (in men) and a shocking 40% in women. Even if they exercised moderately.
Take a look at this infographic from Medical Billing And Coding. It provides some hard-hitting facts on the negative health effects of sitting and is a wake-up call for anyone who spends long periods tied to their desk or in front of their computer.
This infographic was enough to make me sit up and listen (pardon the pun). I know that as an online entrepreneur I sit for far too long. Not only do I need to move more but also sit less, and it’s something I’m working on. This very likely applies to you too so here are 5 simple ways to help you reduce your sitting time.
5 Ways To Reduce Your Sitting Time
1. Have Regular Breaks
If your work involves you sitting for long periods of time at a desk, take regular short breaks. Experts recommend the 20:20 rule. This means that if you’ve been stationary for a straight 20 minutes, get up and stretch for at least 20 seconds to get the blood circulating in your legs, knees and lower back.
This should be achievable even if you work in an office.
You can stand up at regular intervals and drink a fresh glass of water at your desk. If there’s a water cooler in your workplace, go over to it to refill your glass and drink it while you’re standing there. Whenever you use the photocopier or the bathroom, steal a few minutes to move around and stretch before heading back to your desk.
Taking regular walking breaks helps your circulation and reduces the risk of getting varicose veins and musculoskeletal issues that come from sitting in long uninterrupted chunks.
The trick is to build in little bits of physical activity throughout your day to counter the negative effects of being sedentary. Whatever you can do to break up the sitting habit, do it. Your body will thank you for it and you’ll come back to work refreshed and re-committed.
2. Take The Longer Route
If you are walking somewhere, try a longer but more scenic route.
We are trained to take the most direct route from A to B, yet so often we miss the adventure and the surprises that come from discovering something new.
Not to mention the health benefits of walking that bit extra every day.
Walking to work may require a bit of forward planning but it beats being squashed up against other passengers on a crowded bus or train.
Growing up in a small town in Northern England, I spent my younger years walking everywhere on foot, come rain or shine. But since moving to London, like most Londoners, I got used to the convenience of public transport.
So when I moved closer to the center of town, one of the first changes I made was to walk to work. Although it added an extra 20 minutes to my journey it allowed me to ease into my day and mentally prepare myself. Feeling my heart beat and my feet pound on the ground also helped me reconnect with my dreams and tap into my creativity.
Try deliberately missing a stop when you catch public transport and walk the rest of the way. Intentionally park your car a little further from your destination and walk the remaining distance. If this is in the city center then parking further away might even save you some money.
As little as 15 minutes of walking is beneficial and enough to supercharge your brain.
3. Walk As You Talk
The next time someone calls you to “catch up over coffee”, why not suggest a nice walk instead? Our society seems to equate talking to sitting down with food (usually cake!) but this isn’t always the case and you don’t have to stick to this norm.
When you next invite your friend or an acquaintance for a catch-up, why not meet them at a park or take a walk along the river. If you know them well, make an activity of it by going for a power walk or jog together while you exchange news about your life and work.
If you work with a team, then instead of sitting around the boardroom table for your next meeting, take a walk together – it could be down the hall, along the concourse or in the grounds. Walking will not only burn calories, but you’ll get a healthy dose of vitamin D from the sunshine and the change of scene may spark new ideas.
Even when you catch up with a friend over the phone, resist the temptation to do it sitting down or while snuggled up on the couch.
Get into the habit of taking all your calls standing up. This applies to business and coaching calls too and is something I learned in recruitment.
You’ll breathe more easily and project yourself better when you are standing. If the weather’s nice, you could even take your conversation outside. Most smartphones are equipped with earphones these days making it easier than ever to have a hands-free conversation on the go.
4. Be Less Efficient
We live in a time where efficiency and productivity are golden rules to live by. But they shouldn’t be at the expense of your health.
Find ways that encourage you to move more, stretch, extend and of course not sit down all day.
Here are some suggestions to help you position things around the house or in your office in a way that makes it impossible for you to not get up if you want them.
- Place your pitcher or jug of water far enough away from you so that when you need a refill you have to get up or move.
- Position your notebooks furthest on your bookshelf and your pens to the other side of the desk so that if you need these items, you need to stretch or stand up to get them.
- Remove the waste paper basket from beneath your desk and put it somewhere where you have to walk to throw something in it.
- Stretch out at your desk, preferably standing up. This is one simple way to keep moving.
You get the idea.
These may only be very small movements but done on a regular basis, they allow you to practice different stretches and take a few extra steps without you even realizing it. It takes no effort at all but every movement builds up and counters the moments where you are sitting down.
5. Work Standing Up
I’ve heard that standing up while you work makes you more productive and ready for action. That’s why I was intrigued by an article in Mashable extolling the benefits of stand up desks.
Perhaps you’ve heard about standing desks or have one already? They used to be for people with back problems but they are becoming increasingly popular among the “work at home” crowd and anyone looking to improve their productivity and reverse the damage caused by too much sitting.
In order to test out this theory and generally stand more and sit less, a couple of weeks ago I started working from my laptop on my kitchen counter.
A normal desk is too low to stand and work from, and you may damage your back, so I don’t recommend that. You could however place a box underneath your laptop to raise it to the ideal height.
For me the kitchen worktop is perfect.
It’s still early days but I’ve already noticed that I’m getting more done and feel much better after standing for a few hours. My core is tighter and my legs and bottom seem more toned. I am aiming for a 50:50 sit:stand ratio at which point I’ll probably invest in a stand up desk.
For the more adventurous, there are also treadmill desks. As the name suggests, treadmill desks allow you to walk at a slow pace (around 1 mile per hour) while working. They have gained quite a celebrity following and Victoria Beckham recently posted a photo of herself on Twitter on one of these strange contraptions.
Be sure to consult your doctor or medical professional before you purchase one of these solutions. I also don’t recommend wearing the ridiculously high heels that Victoria Beckham has on.
The above suggestions are 5 very simple ways to add extra movement to your daily life. Individually they are almost effortless but cumulatively, these small activities can build up and make a huge difference to your health, productivity and lifestyle.
Don’t risk your health by sitting down for prolonged periods. Sometimes you cannot help but sit for the majority of the day, especially if it’s a job requirement. But there are ways you can improve the situation and stop digging yourself an early grave.
Can you think of any other ways to avoid the dreaded sitting disease? Have you invested in a stand up desk or are you thinking about it? Please comment and share below.