Is your desk job killing you? No, I don’t mean the unrealistic demands, unpredictable hours, or even the uncivilized colleagues and customers. The actual sitting at your desk for extended periods of time is putting your health at risk, even if you exercise! Add the time we repose in our home life, watching TV, surfing the Web, texting family in the next room and Americans sit nine hours a day on average.
“People who sit more are more prone to multiple cancers, breast, prostate, colon.” Dr. James Levine, endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and a leading researcher on the health hazards of a sedentary lifestyle.
Instant Inspiration: Break up the long hours sitting by setting an alarm as a reminder to get up and move for 1-3 minutes. It may not seem like much but short, sporadic movement add up. You don’t need a fancy, schancy activity tracker. I use a digital timer on my PC or phone when working and the start of a TV show when home to stand, stretch, walk.
The shifts from rural life to the city life, from industrial to technological revolutions, have all conspired to make us walk less. Scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research estimate that if everyone sat no more than three hours a day, the average life span would rise by two years. “There’s a consistent association between sitting and health. We’re not designed to be sedentary.” Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., Pennington’s associate executive director for population science.
Sitting or lying for hours at a time inactivates the body’s large muscles, especially those in the legs and back, triggering a cascade of harmful metabolic changes. Sitting disrupts blood sugar levels, lowers the breakdown of harmful cholesterol and reduces calorie burning.
Instant Inspiration: Go to lunch – literally. Pick-up your lunch rather than having it delivered. Walk to an eating area instead of eating at your desk. Set aside time to walk after you eat to jump start your metabolism. Take a few laps around the building. Ditto with dinner. Start the cleanup soon after you finish your meal to get the heart pumping.
In a study of 5,000 participants – ages 20 to 79 – from the University of Alberta taking more than 10 activity breaks a day was associated with a lower waist circumference, lower triglyceride levels, blood pressure, glucose, insulin and systolic blood pressure, and higher “good” HDL cholesterol.
Dr. Levine’s (Mayo Clinic) research refutes conventional thinking about exercise. Contrary to the dogma that a dose of exercise is a perfect prescription for good health, his research shows that a daily trip to the gym, while beneficial, cannot undo the damage done from sitting all day. “People get as much or potentially more benefit from being up and walking a little bit every hour than going to the gym three times a week,” states Dr. Levine.
Instant Inspiration: Take the long view. Park at the far end of lot for work and shopping or get off before the nearest stop to your destination (when you feel safe doing so.) Use the time to prepare for your day and conversely unwind at the end.
Prolonged inactivity shortens your lifespan and hinders your quality of life – the research is conclusive. Equally indisputable is there are simple, non-strenuous activities you can start today that will boost your physical, mental and emotional health.
Bust a Move
- Take standing or walking breaks from sitting every hour; just 1-3 minutes are beneficial.
- Walk to your colleagues’ desks instead of phoning or emailing.
- Drink more water—going to the water fountain and restroom will break up sitting time
- Stand during phone calls.
- Use a height-adjustable desk so you can work standing or sitting.
- Get up and move during commercial breaks.
- Stand to read sections of paper, magazine, book.
- Move around when checking text and e-mail messages on your cell phone.
- Do your own house work – cooking, cleaning.