We have all heard the phrase by now that ‘Sitting is the new Smoking’, but what does this actually mean? Are experts saying that by placing yourself into a chair you might as well be standing with a lit Marlboro 100? In this article, we will examine the relationship between a sedentary lifestyle, and the impact it can have on your overall health (as well as how to intervene and circumvent those negative health consequences).
Prolonged periods of inactivity have been associated with many major health issues, such as diabetes and various types of cancers. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle has been identified by the CDC as the number one contributor to chronic disease in the US. This is an alarming fact given most peoples day-to-day activity (or inactivity). A large number of Americans commute to work each day in a form of transportation where sitting is the only option. Once at their place of employment, most sit in chairs for long periods of time. If you are one of the lucky ones, maybe you get a total of 60 minutes to move around during that shift. After that it is right back to the car for the drive home. At this point 8-10 hours of the day have been consumed. If you have the energy to make it to the gym, you may still not be doing enough to offset the effects of those hours spent inactive.
So what can you do while at work to help? Run in place? Jumping jacks? Those options might get you some curious looks from your coworkers. We suggest that a standing desk could be the answer to your problems. On average standing desks increase your heart rate by 10 beats per minute. This leads to about 50 calories more that your body is burning, every hour. In a single day that can be upward of 400 extra calories expended. In the time span of a year, that’s approximately 30,000 extra calories. That is enough to capture anyone’s attention. In addition to the metabolic increase, range of motion, flexibility, and mood may all be positively affected just by standing.
If a standing desk is not an option for you, don’t worry. There are other possible solutions. First off, start with your posture. Neutral alignment of the spine is paramount, so try not to slouch. Ergonomic chairs are also getting a lot of attention right now for their improvement in posture while sitting. Swiss balls also make for a nice seat, because they force you to activate core muscles that may otherwise be shut off. If none of the above is applicable to you, simply get up and move or stretch every 10-15 minutes. Your body will thank you for it.
As you transition into more standing through the day, whether to simply take a phone call, or you decide to invest in a stand up desk, here are some additional tips:
1. Balance. Try to avoid standing too much by starting off with a 50/50 split in the beginning. Or, think about incorporating two hours worth of standing into your eight-hour work day.
2. Posture. Be mindful of your body position, even when standing. Make sure your ears are over your shoulders, and stand tall and wide; picture a string attached to your head and pulling you toward the ceiling.
3. Support. Utilize objects created to allow for a more ergonomic position, such as stand stools or mats. It is important to shift your posture to allow certain tissues to decompress.
4. Footwear. Choose your shoes wisely, and utilize things such as insoles to lessen the impact of prolonged standing.
5. Stretch. Utilizing your body’s full range of motion throughout the day can be an easy fix to everyday aches and pains.