Car to desk to couch – it’s a comfortable and modern pattern to spend most of our days sitting in various places morning to night. And while some of that sitting is natural, there’s been a lot of chatter lately about the effect all that sitting has on our health.
Food Matters founder and former Guest Editor, James Colquhoun, is talking about the damage too much sitting can cause, even calling it out as “the new smoking” of our generation. Find out what new studies have found and grab a couple of James’ common sense tips to bring more activity into your day…
The Problems Of A Sitting Society
The typical work week is a sitting-cycle of “drive”, “desk” and “couch”. This is a far cry from how humans have lived for the last few millennia. Before technology, the human lifestyle was inherently active. ‘Movement’ and ‘exercise’ weren’t separate activities that needed to be scheduled – they were simply part of everyday life. In fact, the chair only became a common household fixture in the last couple of centuries! In the overall span of human evolution, this makes prolonged sitting a relatively new phenomenon.
Many of us already feel the backache, tension headaches and sluggishness that come from a sedentary lifestyle. However, new research is suggesting that the impact of sitting on our health may be far more serious than poor posture and some aches ‘n’ pains. Numerous studies strongly suggest that prolonged periods of sitting increases our risk of chronic disease, such as diabetes, cardiovascular illness and even cancer. Read up on more of all that here.
As soon as our backsides hit the chair, several metabolic and physical changes start to occur. Our resting metabolic rate plummets, which means that your body burns minimal calories (this helps to explain why increased sitting is associated with higher rates of obesity); the electrical activity in our leg muscles drops right off; blood circulation in our legs becomes sluggish (hello, varicose veins!); prolonged sitting shortens, tightens and weakens our hip flexors, and makes our glute muscles ‘switch off’; our bodies also start to produce higher levels of triglycerides and C-reactive protein, which is indicative of inflammation.
So what’s the solution? It’s simple, yet complicated: Reduce the amount of time we spend on our derrieres. This means increasing our overall daily movement. Sitting less sounds like an intuitive concept, however, the reality is that much of our culture is centered around sedentary activity. Many of us work in office jobs that clock up significant sitting hours. Social gatherings tend to center around eating. Many of us enjoying unwinding on the couch with the TV or a good book at the end of our work days.
While a ‘standing revolution’ isn’t likely to happen overnight, the great news is that we can implement small, consistent changes that will make a big difference to reducing our risk. Here are a few ways to get started…
14 Solutions for Too mUch Sitting
For Sitting At Work:
Set A Timer – Using a timer on your phone or computer, set an alarm reminder to stand up and stretch every 10 to 15 minutes. Yes, I know this sounds disruptive but it’s truly so important for your health! With time, you won’t even need the timer any more because your body feels so good with a stretch. That extra oxygenation is good for your brain and productivity too.
Meet In Motion – Suggest having a walking meeting. The extra sunshine, fresh air and oxygenated muscles will make you feel invigorated and far more productive once you return to the office!
Swap Your Seat – Trial “active sitting” on yoga/exercise balls at your desk. You still need to get up and stretch regularly but these balls do engage more of your muscle groups than regular desk chairs.
Make Excuses – Look for opportunities to interrupt sitting time at work – walk to the printer, take bathroom breaks on another floor level, use the stairs instead of elevators.
Walk to Talk – Walk over to speak with a work colleague, as opposed to emailing or phoning from your desk chair.
Get a Standing Desk – Or, even better, a treadmill desk! Admittedly, these can be more expensive than regular desks. However, we all need to stand up for our right to stand up! Start by kindly communicating the benefits to your employer, or even negotiate a desk upgrade as part of your bonus scheme. You can also improvise by using a laptop on a benchtop or high counter.
For Sitting In A Car:
Go The Distance – Park your car further from the office to add a little extra walking into your day.
Bike Things Up – Ride a bike instead of taking the car, whenever possible, to get a little extra motion into your day.
Sacrifice A Seat – Opt to stand up on public transport, rather than taking a seat.
Break, Rest, Repeat – Break up long-drives with frequent rest-and-stretch breaks. If you have regular, long commutes to work, this is also important for your concentration and safety as a driver.
For Social Sitting:
Move And Mingle – Suggest walking “catch ups” with friends, rather than over a meal or coffee.
Chat On The Go – Stand up while you take phone calls. Better yet, take a walk while you chat!
For Leisure Sitting:
Netflix and (Don’t) Chill – Use ad breaks on TV, or ends of episodes during a binge watch, as a reminder to get off the couch, stretch and walk around.
Take Page Breaks – While reading, use the end of each chapter as a reminder to stand up and stretch.
Hop to it! Don’t discount the power of these small steps! Every time you take a moment to stand and move, your body kick-starts the processes needed to metabolize fat and breakdown sugar. This benefits the health of your entire body and boosts your metabolism too. Commit to a few small changes from the suggestions above, and begin integrating better habits into your day-today!
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.