Though many of us have relocated back to the office, a large number of us have transitioned to working from home, which means the majority of us are spending most of our day sitting.
What's the problem with sitting all day you might ask? Well sitting for long periods of time is actually proving to be more of a problem than we tend to think. In fact, sitting is now being described as the new smoking, in terms of health consequences.
A sedentary lifestyle can raise the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, deep-vein thrombosis, metabolic syndrome as well as the overall risk of mortality (1)(2).
A study showed 25% of men and women who watched TV for 21 hours or more were classified as obese (2).
The reality is the majority of adults and children are spending most of their waking hours being sedentary.
We need to rethink the way we are living as these risks are largely preventable with diet and lifestyle changes alone.
Though it can be challenging to shift your lifestyle that revolves around being sedentary, one of the biggest changes we can make for our health is to sit less. So what can you do?
Work at a standing desk
For most adults, work is the biggest obstacle to moving during their day. However there are many strategies we can implement so that we end up sitting less, such as investing in a standing desk. A standing desk can help to divide your time between sitting and standing while providing benefits such as improved mood and productivity, more stable blood sugar, reduced back pain, and weight management.
A treadmill desk is also another option which goes beyond a standing desk by encouraging slow movement as you work (3).
Get moving throughout your day
Instead of the elevator could you take the stairs? Get off a stop earlier on your bus route and walk the rest of the way? Ride your bike instead of your car?
These types of micro-movements scattered throughout the day may be more important than your scheduled workouts and they should be implemented first and foremost.
Making little changes by implementing non exercise movement during your day can make a big difference for your overall health including anti-aging effects (4).
Evidence suggests that implementing movement dispersed throughout your day is more beneficial than a single session followed by continuous sitting (5).
Regardless of whether or not you workout daily, sitting for more than 6 hours per day has been associated with an increased rate of mortality (6).
"We were designed to squat. We were designed to kneel. Sitting is okay, but it’s uninterrupted sitting that is bad for us. We are not designed to sit continuously. We are not designed to be in quasi-microgravity... It’s not how many hours of sitting that's bad for you; it’s how often you interrupt that sitting that is GOOD for you!" - Dr. Vernikos
Take regular breaks
Aim to get up at least once per hour to take an active break such as walking, stretching, jumping jacks, stairs, or yoga. If you find yourself forgetting, set an alarm for once to twice per hour to take a quick active break. You can also implement physical activity when you take a bathroom break for example set yourself a target of doing 15 squats before you sit back down. Breaking up the time you spend sitting can make a difference in overall health but also more specifically metabolic health and weight which is becoming an epidemic (7).
Practice active sitting and adopt good posture
Have you noticed your posture? The way you sit can make a big difference in your health and poor posture can contribute to pain in the body, misalignment, decreased flexibility, poor digestive function, and decreased oxygen intake (8).
Check in on yourself during the day to ensure you are sitting upright with your back pressed against the chair and your feet on the floor in order to practice good sitting posture.
You can also choose a more active sitting position by using a yoga ball to sit on which will increase micro movements in the body.
Explore alternative activities to electronics
It can be easy to turn to electronic devices at the end of a work day however this may actually be doing you more harm than good. Frequent exposure to electronics can affect everything from sleep, posture, eye health, energy, hormones, and mental health.
Studies have also reported musculoskeletal symptoms in adults and children in relation to the use of electronic devices (8).
Instead of turning on the TV or scrolling on your phone after work, try something that involves movement such as stretching, dancing, sports, yoga, or a walk outside. Set a limit for yourself and start small to then work your way up in order to increase adherence. Making this a daily habit can make a world of difference to your health.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.