Did you know that sitting for long periods of time can increase your risk of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and depression? More than 86 percent of the American population have "desk jobs." And now that many of us have transferred our work to our home offices, we may be spending over 11 hours per day sitting down. Add a good night’s rest of eight hours sleep onto that, and that’s a whopping 80 percent of our lives being completely sedentary! So what can we do to reduce this risk and live healthier lives? It’s simple. Stand up and move around.
Research has shown that standing up and moving around for as little as two minutes, every half hour, can reduce your risk of certain diseases. But, while modern health guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise such as brisk walking or vacuuming, studies have actually shown that people who exercise in this way are still at risk of experiencing health issues. Why? Because they do these activities in short bursts and are otherwise sedentary.
“Regular exercise routines, when coupled with simple, more regular habits, such as standing up and moving around more often, are actually better, as the frequency helps to regulate our hearts, and improve our blood circulation. It also helps to burn excess calories and tackle unhealthy weight gain,” suggests Christopher Celio, MD.
On average, when we are sitting at a desk, our body needs approximately 75 calories per hour, to keep our organs functioning. This is not a lot when we consider that two pieces of whole-wheat, buttered toast contain approximately 450 calories. That means it would take our body six hours to burn all those calories sitting still. And let’s be honest here, there’s no way we can function on just two pieces of toast for a whole day. Aside from being unrealistic, it is also just plain unhealthy. However, if we spent that time combining sitting with standing and movement, we would have burned all those calories in just three hours.
Standing more is a great way to help battle the risk of certain diseases, but too much of anything can be bad for you, and standing is no different. “Standing for long periods at a time is known to cause varicose veins and contribute to back pain,” states Dr. Celio, “so it’s generally better to mix sitting, standing and movement.” Getting up every 20 to 30 minutes, standing for about eight minutes and moving around for two minutes, is a good balance. “If you’re going to work on your laptop while you are standing up, make sure you maintain good posture,” he advises. Ensure your screen is resting at eye level so that you’re not hunching your back forward.
The first step to making the change from being sedentary to moving around is to recognize when and where you tend to be the most sedentary and be aware of how long you are sitting. Try setting an alarm that goes off every half hour as a reminder for you to get up and move around. At first, it may seem tedious and challenging, especially when you’re at work and have lots of emails to write and phone calls to make. But with practice you will be able to adjust your behaviors and adopt healthier ones. This type of half-hour-break system is also a great way to give your mind those little stress-pauses it needs to stay happy and healthy.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.
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