If you work at a regular desk job all day, sit on the train, car or bus to commute and then zone out in front of the TV for a few hours before bedtime, you could be sitting for up to 12 hours a day. This, medical experts say, can shorten your life expectancy. However you can take steps (literally) to improve your health.
Excessive sitting down is linked to a host of medical problems. An article in the National Post says that recent studies have found that workers who sit for extended hours have more than twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a 13% increased risk of cancer and 17% increased risk of dying, as compared to those who sat down for less time in the day. Besides deadly diseases, too much sitting can also harm your muscles and joints and lead to depression. In fact, the dangers of sitting have been likened to that of smoking.
The worst part? Even exercising religiously everyday is unlikely to combat the negative effects of being parked on an office chair all day. So what can you do? Experts suggest that those with desk jobs stand at work for some time during the day and take breaks to move about as much as possible. Ideally, if you work an eight hour shift, you should be on your feet for at least two hours of that time. This can be tough, especially in a high pressure job environment or one that requires you to continually work on your computer.
Gavin Bradley, director of Active Working, an international group aimed at reducing excessive sitting, recommends standing at work as much as possible as the first step to increasing activity. Suggesting practical ways to move about during office hours, he told the National Post, “Taking your calls standing. Walking around. Pacing. Holding standing meetings. Walking meetings. Walking over to a colleague’s desk instead of sending an email. Using the stairs instead of the elevator. Taking a lunch break. Simple stuff.”
“Metabolism slows down 90% after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. The muscles in your lower body are turned off. And after two hours, good cholesterol drops 20%. Just getting up for five minutes is going to get things going again. These things are so simple they’re almost stupid.”
If you have have a hard time remembering to get up and take regular breaks, don’t worry, there is an app for that. There are several free and paid apps for your computer that will remind you regularly to take a break. You can configure the frequency and duration of the breaks, and the app will then provide an on-screen reminder and some of them even blank your screen to drive the message home.
So just like eating healthily and getting enough exercise, make getting off your chair a priority in your day. That way you stand a better chance of living longer.
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