Okay, which one is it? Is sitting slowly killing us? Or is it the lack of physical activity (and NOT actually sitting) killing us? Or is it a combination of several other factors?
Several of us sit for short and often extended amounts of time tending to various computer tasks at work, home, and school. It’s easy to get caught up in a task, phone conversation, or productive meeting and the next thing you know, you have been sitting in the same chair for over 3 hours! And don’t forget, many of us have long commutes and sit behind the steering wheel, on public transportation, or in a carpool. Let’s not even talk about sitting when we eat, go to the bathroom, watch TV, or read our little techie gadgets. Regardless of what it is, all of this sitting time adds up.
A recent 2015 British study that followed 5,000 people for 16 years completely debunked several prior studies about the detrimental impact sitting has on our health and longevity. It stated,
Long periods of sitting may not be as bad for health as previously thought. [The study] did not find any increased risk of early death from prolonged sitting. The results of this extensive study run counter to previous research claims that even regular exercise does not fully overcome the damage of too much sitting. The study did not cast any doubt on the benefits of exercise or the dangers of overall physical inactivity, but its results did suggest that prolonged sitting is no worse than other forms of inactivity, at least for risk of early death.
The moral of the story is MOVE! Add more physical activity to your day period!
Here’s a quick list of five things you can do at work.
- MOVE YOUR TRASH CAN: Your trash can may currently be conveniently located near your desk. Stop what you’re doing. Pick it up. And move it to the other side of your office space. This will force you to get up more frequently throughout the day; hence, integrate more physical activity into your workday and burn more calories!
- STAND UP- SIT DOWN – STAND UP: I remember learning this trick while listening to a nerdy exercise physiology podcast. One of the presenters gave this excellent tip. Here it is. Every time you are seated and wish to stand up to go do something, stand up, then sit back down, and then stand up and complete your task. This forces you to incorporate move movement–especially, squats to your day.
- SIT DOWN – STAND UP – SIT DOWN: Similar to #2, every time you are standing and choose to sit, sit down, then stand back up, and then sit down.
- DRINK MORE WATER: One of the most common complaints about drinking more water at work or even when flying is getting up to use the restroom more frequently. Well, consider this a blessing. Drinking more water AND getting up more often during the day is a WIN-WIN scenario. You are hydrated and incorporating more physical activity into your day. So what are you waiting for? Take another sip of H20!
- DITCH THE ELEVATOR: This is a no brainer. Take the stairs!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Numbers 2, 3, and 5 assume you have the ability to stand up, sit down, and walk up/down steps on your own. Please contact me to explore ways to modify these activities for anyone who may have a physical limitation.
[The study’s] co-author Melvyn Hillsdon said, “Policy makers should be cautious in recommending a reduction in the time spent sitting without also promoting increased physical activity…Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself.”