If you drive to work, sit at work, then go home and sit at your computer or in front of the TV, listen up.
And, even if you do all of the above but squeeze in exercise, still listen up. And stand up.
Why? Because 10 years’ worth of studies show that sitting is really, really bad for us. It gives us back problems, leads to obesity, increases the risk of heart disease, results in diabetes because idle muscles encourage the pancreas to produce more insulin, and it increases the amount of fluid that accumulates in our legs leading to everything from swollen ankles to varicose veins to dangerous blood clots. Medical experts also attribute the recent increase of osteoporosis to the lack of activity and the constant craning of your neck in front of a computer strains the cervical vertebrae and can lead to permanent imbalances. If all of that isn’t bad enough, there’s “sedentary death syndrome,” defined as death caused by extreme inactivity and poor nutrition.
Do I have your attention yet?
If you don’t believe me, listen to Tom Rath, author of “Eat, Move, Sleep.” After exhaustive research on the subject, he concluded that inactivity is so dangerous that sitting more than six hours a day will greatly increase your risk of an early death. Perhaps most shocking is that inactivity now kills more people than smoking, making it what many are calling “the new smoking” and the most underrated health-threat of our time.
So there’s that.
Think about it. Most of us go from our bed to our car to our office or school and then back to our car before calling it a night as we watch TV in our chair. Oh, we might also take some time to get on our computers…all while sitting in a chair. That is a whole lot of sitting!
Cue the researchers who find many of us are either lying down or sitting 20 hours per day, leaving a measly four hours for activity. We are literally living with a stalled metabolic rate that is similar to an anesthetized patient for more than 80 percent of our day.
Studying our inactivity is part of the fast-growing field called “inactivity physiology.” Google it and you’ll see lots comes up. Basically defined as the study of how lifestyle causes disease and that too much sitting has very potent effects on the body contributing to the most common diseases, inactive physiology was pioneered by Marc Hamilton who stresses that “too little exercise” is not the same as “too much sitting.” His studies have found that physical inactivity can impair basic but key body functions that regulate our fat and cholesterol metabolism and that this isn’t reversed by exercise. Even to all of you who work out daily, prolonged sitting can still increase your long-term risk of illness and even death.
So, what can we do? In short, stand up!
Research shows that standing for at least two hours a day can lower cholesterol as well as the sugar and fat levels in your blood. Your goal should be to stand as many hours a day as you sit.
Corporate America is listening and two trends have emerged: treadmill desks and standing desks. You’ve probably seen them in movies and at your own place of work and they are working.
Also called walk stations, treadmill desks are basically just that: treadmills attached to or in front of desks. Instead of sitting in a chair while working, you’re moving at an average speed of 1-2 mph, which is fast enough to get your heart rate up, double your metabolic rate, and improve blood sugar levels but slow enough so you can type, read, and talk on the phone comfortably. They are proving great ways to get physical activity in while doing your job.
Standing desks are also gaining popularity. Instead of sitting in front of your desk you stand, meaning your leg muscles are constantly engaged, which helps improve the bloodstream while eliminating lower back and neck pain. These are proving even better for you than all those expensive ergonomically correct desk chairs that were once all the rage.
If you must sit at your desk, consider doing so on a giant exercise ball. Yep, the big inflatable and fun balls will help improve your posture, keep you somewhat moving and not static because you have to balance on them, and they also strengthen your core, your legs, and your back muscles. Balls are also being experimented with in schools too with desk chairs being replaced by them.
It’s all about productivity and health costs at the corporate level and it’s really pretty simple. Healthy employees are more productive and cost the bottom line less in insurance and health care costs. Oh to have invested in treadmill desk manufacturers, as sales have dramatically increased thanks to companies like Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, United Health Care, the Mayo Clinic, and even the FBI buying walk stations in bulk.
Employees are happy too. Most love knowing they are getting in some physical activity while in the office and credit their new office furniture with helping them think more clearly and feel more productive.
If there is no getting around sitting at a desk or anywhere for extended periods of time, at the very least take regular breaks to stretch and walk around. Do a “walk and talk” phone call or just walk the stairs every now and then.
So all you couch potatoes out there, it’s time you get up, stand up, and move around. Don’t take a seat, take a stand!