Does the following sound familiar? You get out of bed, shower, dress and sit down to eat breakfast. You sit in your car in rush-hour traffic to get to the office. Then you sit at your workstation for eight hours (with lunch at your desk). You sit in your car to return home. You sit down to eat dinner and then sit down in front of the TV to relax after a long and stressful day.
This may be an extreme example, but it’s sadly close to the truth for many people. What’s most concerning about it, though, is that with the help of scientific research, we are learning about the very negative consequences of all this sitting.
Sitting (not so) pretty
A study into the TV viewing habits of 8,000 Australian adults over an average of six years found that those who watched more than four hours of TV a day were 46 percent more likely to die early of any cause and 80 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who watched less than two hours a day.
The Australian researchers concluded that chronic disease prevention strategies, in addition to the promotion of exercise, should focus on reducing sitting time. They pointed to an absence of muscle movement for prolonged periods, which causes the disruption of the body’s regulatory processes.
Get up from that chair
The good news is that many studies reveal that frequent bouts of activity, like incidental walking during the workday, can decrease sedentary behavior, reducing the impact on our health.
The even better news, especially for our bosses, is that this can also increase workplace productivity. Further evidence points toward increased breaks in sedentary work time as being positively associated with reduced metabolic risk factors.
Here are some healthy strategies to avoid the pitfalls of prolonged sitting when you’re at the office.
- Shift weight frequently in your chair when sitting.
- Locate items (including wastebaskets, files and printers) away from your desk to necessitate movement.
- Climb the stairs, rather than using elevators and escalators.
- Stand up while talking on the phone.
- Use a headset to keep moving during phone calls.
- Stand up during meetings.
- Walk to your co-worker’s desk to communicate rather than emailing.
- Alternate frequently between relaxed and upright posture.
- Stand up occasionally (approximately every 30 minutes) for short durations.
- Take frequent micro-breaks from sitting (walk around the office for a minute).
- Stretch often.
- Squeeze and relax muscles progressively, starting at the feet.
- Practice pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
- Sit on an exercise ball for short durations in place of a chair.
- Go for a short walk outside.
- Get up and get a glass of water.
- Walk instead of driving for short trips (to the post office, for example).
Although we may be locked into a lifestyle that keeps us on our duffs, there is no reason for us to be sitting ducks. Let’s all get up and move!