Quit the Sit

Stephanie Specht's picture
By Stephanie Specht on July 29, 2015

We all know that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to major health problems. And many of us take steps every day to combat that by working out and making healthy choices. However, research in the last few years has found that even if you work out vigorously a few times a week or even every day, but still sit for the remainder of the day, you are putting yourself at great risk for many chronic health problems.

“Our bodies were just not made to sit all day," said Richard Weiss, M.D., M.B.A., of Carilion’s Institute for Orthopaedics and Neurosciences. "We are made to move.”

Dr. Weiss noted that extended periods of sitting can lead to common issues such hip and knee pain, muscle atrophy, joint problems and poor posture, and it is also associated with a significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, osteoporosis and depression. In fact, some health experts contend that sitting is worse than smoking.

“Sitting is just about the worst thing you can do for your body,” agreed Dr. Weiss.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) recently came out with specific guidelines for office workers to help reduce the health risks of too much sitting:

  • Stand up frequently throughout the day. Aim for a total of two hours of standing per day.
  • Regularly change from a seated position to a standing position.
  • Avoid standing in one place too long, which can be just as harmful as extended periods of sitting.
  • Change your posture or do some light walking to combat pain and fatigue.

“The guidelines can seem overwhelming, but if you break it down into small increments of throughout the day it can be doable,” said Dr. Weiss. “The most important thing is to just move. Try to focus on shifting your weight every 15 minutes and get out of your chair at least once per hour.”

Sit Less at Work
It can be easy to get focused on the tasks at hand at work and before you know it, you have been sitting all day. Try a few of these tips to get in more standing time at work:

  • Take your calls standing or pace around your work area.
  • Hold standing meetings or even walking meetings.
  • Make a quick lap around your office.
  • Don’t just eat at your desk. Take a lunch break.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk over and talk to your colleague instead of sending an email.

Sit Less at Home
The same goes for those of you that are at home most of the day. Between watching television, using the computer, driving, talking on the phone or reading it is very easy to spend most of your day sitting. Don’t let yourself become a couch potato; try these tips to get more movement in your day:

  • Pace or walk around your house while you are on the phone.
  • Stand up and do some stretches while you are watching TV.
  • During commercial breaks, take an activity break. March in place or take a lap around your house.
  • After each meal, take a short stroll around your neighborhood.
  • Instead of doing a weekly cleaning of your home, do a little speed cleaning every day. Invest in a stand-up desk or move your computer to a spot where you have to stand to use it.
  • Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and move. Today, many fitness trackers can be programmed to alert you if you have been sitting too long.

You just might be surprised at how much more productive you are when you move just a little bit more. Whether you are at work most of the day or at home, the message is the same — sit less and stand and move more!