How to counteract sitting all day
How to counteract sitting all day
Or read the post below in 5 minutes
It’s the fourth leading risk factor for mortality, responsible for over three million deaths a year! This disease is thought to affect over 80% of the population in America, but only a handful of those people know about it. The good news is, there’s now a cure.
We live in convenient times. Many of life’s small inconveniences have been outsourced with advances in technology. We no longer have to make our food because it’s almost as economical to buy it premade, saving us time. We can choose to live in more affordable houses and apartments that are further from work as commuting becomes faster and less expensive.
Our modern life is more convenient than ever. However, with that convenience we have all started sitting a lot more. We sit when we eat breakfast, on our commute to work, at our offices when we get to work, then on the couch in front of the television when we get home. On average, a person spends 12 hours a day sitting! If you factor in the 8 hours a person sleeps, the average person is sedentary for 20 hours in a 24 hour period!
Furthermore, only 20% of Americans get the recommended amount of daily exercise, meaning those who are sedentary are likely not doing much to counteract their lifestyle with regular exercise.
This is creating a big problem in the way of increased medical costs and risk factors for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In fact, physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for global mortality and can be linked to over 3 million deaths per year, which is why many researchers are now using the term “Sitting disease”.
When you sit for long periods of time, the normal metabolic processes of your body responsible for regulating blood lipid levels and insulin can be thrown out of whack.
Over time, this can lead to chronic high cholesterol, putting you at risk of developing heart disease, as well as lowered insulin sensitivity, a known risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
The negative effects can be seen within only 10 minutes of prolonged sitting, initially starting with a reduction of normal circulation.
For every hour you continue to sit without movement, your circulation continues to suffer, putting you at higher risk of forming varicose veins and blood clots. In fact, sitting for between 2.5 and 5 hours a day increases your risk of forming blood clots by 70%!
Because of the decrease in circulation, a person who sits for extended periods of time is liable to experience brain fog and a feeling of overall tiredness throughout the day. Inactivity of the body has been linked to inactivity of the brain.
Conversely, an active body has been shown to increase activity in the brain. With only 10 minutes of moderate movement like walking you can begin enhancing your mental focus. Furthermore, an almost 50% increase in productivity was shown in one study when employees used standing desks.
Finally, chronic inactivity through sitting can also destroy your posture and potentially cause arthritis over time. When you sit for long periods at your desk, the normally active postural muscles responsible for erecting and aligning your spine are shut off.
Instead of supporting itself with postural muscles, the body slumps forward to support itself by way of the forearms on the desk.
When you sit this way for extended periods of time, the shoulders round in and the head juts forward placing a tremendous amount of pressure on the disks of the neck. The cervical vertebrae of your neck are designed to support the weight of your head with a natural, lordotic curve.
For every inch your head moves forward the pressure on the spine is increased by 10 pounds. The distribution of the extra weight is then unevenly distributed onto the disks as they are compressed between vertebrae.
With only 20 minutes of holding a poor static posture, the ligaments and tendons can begin to deform, solidifying the new posture once the person stands form their desk .
It’s pretty apparent that sitting for extended periods of time can cause seriously harmful effects to the body. Nevertheless, an average person in America is sitting for 12 hours a day!
Many of us work in offices that require us to sit at desks. Commuting to work might mean sitting for an hour or two in a car or on a bus or train. If this is similar to your experience, how can you start reducing the risks of sitting in your own life?
The good news is, it doesn’t take much to reduce and reverse the negative effects of chronic sitting. As mentioned, going to the gym and exercising for the recommended 3 hours a week isn’t going to do it.
Instead, regular low level activities like walking and standing are much more effective at reducing the risks of sitting. Regularly walking and standing throughout the day plays a key role in improving our metabolic health and keeping us healthy.
A good target to shoot for is getting up from your desk every hour to perform 5 to 10 minutes of activity. Eventually, getting up from your desk every 30 minutes would be ideal. If you find yourself in an office setting where sitting at a desk throughout the day is normal, you can start finding ways of being more active by including the following.
- Use the stairs rather than the elevator. If there are restrooms on every floor of your building, start using the restroom on the floor above yours so you must take the stairs whenever the occasion comes.
- When you have to take a phone call get up from your desk and either stand or, if possible, walk around the office.
- Go for a 10 minute walk before and after your lunch break. This has a two fold effect, as not only will walking help reduce the symptoms of sitting, but can also improve your body’s insulin response when you eat lunch. In one small study, participants who walked directly after lunch and dinner lost twice as much weight as those who did not.
- Whenever you need to talk to a colleague at work, get up from your desk and walk over rather than emailing or using a messaging tool like Slack.
- Set a timer on your phone for every thirty minutes to stand up and possibly walk around, maybe to get glass of water.
- Try a standing desk. If you’re not sure you’re ready to make the investment in a standing desk, as they can be quite expensive, I’d suggest spending $20 on a cardboard standing desk converter from Oristand. These set up in seconds and can be stored beside your desk when you go back to sitting.
Many of us will experience a post lunch slump in energy about an hour after eating. Often, this will lead to coffee number two… or three… or four…
Rather than going for another coffee, try doing a minute of air squats or jumping jacks. Elevating your heart rate and increasing your breathing will kick start your circulation to the brain, getting you back in the mental zone.
You may be thinking, “But Taylor, what will all my coworkers think when I start doing jumping jacks in the middle of the office?” This is your chance to be the office hero. I’m willing to bet that if you explained why you’re doing it and if you Invited your coworkers to join in, many of them would be more than happy to do so.
You can also bring it up to your boss by mentioning the whole increased movement correlates to an increase in productivity of 50 percent thing.
If your work has you sitting for many hours of the day, I’d love to hear if you tried or are going to try any of these tips for bringing movement back into your life.
If you did, which ones worked best for you? Did you notice an increase in energy and mental focus? Are you going to try out one of the cardboard standing desk converters? Let me know in the comments!
As always, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read this article. If you got something from this article and if you know someone who would benefit from it as well, please feel free to share!
If you have any questions or suggestions for future videos please leave me a message in the comments or reach out to me on social media! And remember that with everything in life the secret to success is getting started. So get started!