Is Sitting at Your Job Killing You?
Here’s what you can do to avoid a sedentary lifestyle
Written by Darla Palmer-Ellingson in Business Health & Wellness
In all likelihood, you are sitting reading this. The majority of working Americans start their day by sitting during a commute, arrive at a desk to sit most of the day, commute again and then hit the couch to watch TV, or sit at a home computer to play games or catch up on social media.
Countless studies have called chronic sitting “the new cancer,” increasing the risk for diabetes, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease, breast and colon cancer, and many chronic issues related to obesity. Standing isn’t the answer either. Even going to the gym won’t fully address the issue.
The fact is, it is not just sitting that is killing us, it is a sedentary lifestyle. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 3.2 million deaths can be attributed to lack of physical activity.
New research in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found that even though sitting can lead to early death, getting up to move around every half-hour, combined with other healthy lifestyle choices, could counteract this risk.
The research followed 7,985 adults over four years, showing that “interrupting sedentary time” can reduce health risks. The longer and more intense the movement break the better, but even a minimal one-minute break will help manage blood sugar levels and prevent the formation of blood clots in the legs.
Another thorough study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine pointed out for those that sat most—executives in high status jobs—sitting did not correlate to health risks. Their higher socioeconomic position was linked to a lower risk of chronic disease. But those in the study who watched a lot of TV and were generally in a lower socioeconomic position, were linked to higher incidents of chronic disease, had poorer mental health and ate unhealthy foods.
You can combat risks by making healthy food choices, even at work, and take advantage of annual health plan wellness checkups.
Don’t Give Up on Exercise
While exercise alone is not enough, when combined with other healthy lifestyle choices, 60 to 75 minutes of physical activity a day reduced the negative effects of sitting.
In addition, break up sedentary time at work by exercising at your desk throughout the day. Not only will you realize long-term health benefits, regular exercise improves mood and you may even lose some weight. Get some co-workers involved and tell your boss you are helping the company’s bottom line by encouraging better overall employee health, reducing downtime and health care costs. In about five minutes, three to five times a day, you can complete these 10 easy desk exercises:
- Walk, Jog or Run in Place
Just stand up and start jogging for 30 to 45 seconds. For more of a workout, raise your knees as high as you can.
- Desk Push-Ups
Take two or three steps away from your desk and grab the front edge. Keeping your body in a straight angle, raise and lower your arms 10 times.
- Chair Squats
Stand up from your chair, then sit and immediately stand back up. Repeat 10 times.
- Tricep Dips
Stand with your back to your desk. Position your hands shoulder-width apart on the desk behind you. Squat down, putting tension on your arms, straighten up and repeat 10 times.
- Pretend Jump Rope
Hop on both feet at once, or alternate, while making imaginary arm movements as if you are holding a jump rope. Repeat 10 times.
- Calf Raises
Stand up behind your chair, lightly resting your hands on the top back of the chair. Raise your right knee as high as you can and set it back down 10 times and repeat with the left leg.
- Glute Squeeze
While standing, squeeze your butt muscles as hard as you can and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
- Shoulder Press
Hold one arm out straight, raise it above your head keeping it straight, then bend at the elbow, moving your hand toward your back. Repeat 10 times, then repeat with the other arm. For more of a challenge, hold a small dumbbell or a similar weighted object.
- Wall Sit
This is harder than it sounds. Stand with your back against the wall and lower yourself into a seated position, with your legs forming a chair. Build up to holding the position for 30 seconds.
Step forward with your right leg only, keeping your right heel on the ground, stretching your left leg behind you, balancing on your left toes. Lower the knee of your back leg toward (but not touching) the ground. Repeat 20 times, alternating legs.
Make physical activity and healthy choices part of your lifestyle
We are used to being in a hurry and doing things that are easy and convenient. Make a lifestyle shift and plan a little more time into your routine.
Park farther away from the door in the employee parking lot or when you go grocery shopping. Take the stairs instead of an elevator. If you are stuck waiting for an appointment or airplane, walk around instead of sitting staring at your phone or tablet. Instead of sending an interoffice email or calling a co-worker, get up and go talk to them in person. Actively prepare fresh meals instead of opting for fast food or pre-cooked food from the store.
Your sedentary lifestyle may be killing you, but you are not alone. Assume control by taking a desk break, incorporating activity and healthy choices throughout the day as if your life depends on it, because it does.