The title is a little dramatic… I know. But this is such an important issue I need to capture your attention!
Plus it is a fact that sitting down really is killing us!
Statistics from numerous clinical research studies show that sitting for long periods increases early death, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.
Not a nice cocktail.
Most importantly, this remains true even if you exercise.
Researchers in New South Wales found that “the longer you spend sitting down every day, the higher the risk of dying prematurely, even if you engage in regular daily exercise.”(1)
Just think about that for a second. The ‘even if’ is the scary part!
Even if you diligently get out walking, running or working out, every single day, this is not enough to undo all of the negative effects of long periods sitting.
Sitting down slows your metabolism, keeps blood sugar levels elevated, switches off muscle contractions, and in the long terms leads to high blood pressure, excess tummy fat, elevated cholesterol and diabetes.(2)
UK Endocrinology Researcher Dr Emma Wilmot says “We now know that going to the gym at the end of the day is not enough to undo the harm of hours and hours of time spent sitting at a desk.” (3)
For women over 30, sitting has just been named more dangerous than smoking (4), yet it is still very socially acceptable to sit down.
Just think how quickly it can add up for people that spend time sitting at a desk, in meetings, in the car, on social media, in front of the TV or other technology.
For a lot of people virtually all day is spent sitting with only minimal movement in between. We lie in bed, sit for breakfast, sit in the car, sit at our desk, sit for lunch, sit in the car on the way home, sit for dinner then sit in front of the TV or computer, and then lie down for bed.
Sitting while eating? – Great!
At other times? – Best avoided where possible.
The good news is that as soon as you stand up or more around, chemical and muscular changes in your body kick in to start undoing the effects of being sedentary.
Vigorous exercise all day long is not required. Simply break up the sitting.
So what are some good solutions?
1. Take a Stand
If you work on a laptop, one of the easiest things you can do is raise it to a level where you can stand and work. This could be placing your computer on top of your filing cabinet, having a box or stack of books on your desk to elevate it, or by using your kitchen bench if at home. Get a screen and link it with an HDMI cable if needed for ergonomics so that you can have tall relaxed neck and shoulder posture.
Work standing up, in comfortable flat shoes for part or most of your day. Yes you can put your heels back on to head out and about the office or around town. Who will really mind what footwear you have on at your desk?
2. Walk and Talk
Certain things can be good to multi-task. Rather than meet up with a friend or colleague to sit down and have a cuppa, head out for a refreshing walk. You could easily cover several kilometres having a great catch up before you know it. Getting outdoors in sunlight also has numerous additional health benefits.
3. Upright Meetings
Meetings can lead to a lot of wasted time. Incorporating standing meetings not only speeds them up increasing your productivity and effectiveness, but also means everyone kicks their bodies back into action. Consider having tall tables and bar stool style chairs so that people can choose to either sit or stand (or both) throughout meetings.
While standing, your muscles co-contract, you maintain your balance and resist the force of gravity. For small groups you could even have walking meetings. Simply head out and around the block for the allocated time. Harness the power of technology for the good and have one person take ‘minutes’ verbally or in note form using a smart phone.
4. Link Standing to Common Tasks
When ever the phone rings, when you check your emails, when you are proof reading something, while filing, each time you get a text message or for any routine tasks that form part of your day; make it a habit to stand up.
Cordless phones even allow you to go for a walk. Lots of 3-5 minute phone conversations, or time spent reading emails (we can all do that standing up!) add up to a lot and really can change your day, and your life.
5. Alarm Yourself
Set an alarm in your watch or your computer calendar do go off every hour reminding you to move for 5 minutes. This could be as simple as heading up and down a few flights of stairs, walking on the spot at your desk, doing a mini desk workout or a series of neck, back, shoulder and leg stretches.
6. Snack on Exercise
This is one of my favourite philosophies for busy people. Rather than saving all your exercise time up for one extended period, fit in regular small bursts even just for a few minutes. Four minutes a day can make all the difference. It takes just 20 seconds to get your heart rate up, and remember that when you do this you become more alert and effective so you are actually saving time as you’ll be more productive.
A mini desk workout snack could be as simple as getting up from your desk 10 squats, 10 high knee lifts, 10 press ups on the edge of your desk, 10 jogs on the spot, 10 arm lifts and 10 skips with an imaginary rope. Repeat it a couple of times if you like.
Get your whole office on board and you will all reap the benefits of a more focused mind, more creativity and improved problem-solving as well.
7. Seated Walking
Even if you can’t stand up for long, try lifting your heels up while seated as if you are ‘walking’ while sitting down at your desk. Give it a go right now. Try ‘jogging’ your feet narrow and wide under the desk. Speed it up and give it some energy! See how you feel.
While not quite as effective as actually standing or walking it will have an impact by stimulating muscle contraction and raising your metabolism. Again get your colleagues on board so that they are laughing with you, not at you.
All of the above are very easy to do, but can be just as easy not to do as well. They key thing is to take it seriously enough to decide to start.
Habits are formed quickly through repetition and reinforcement over just a few short weeks. So choose just one strategy and mindfully put it into place this week. Yes I really mean it!
Pick one of them right now.
Write down your goal, put a post it note beside your desk and focus on just that one thing this week. Any one of the above strategies can make enough of a change to your day to reverse the negative consequences of being sedentary.
The Importance of Leadership
If you’re a leader in your workplace, do a quick audit of how movement-friendly your common work practices are.
Do you encourage staff to get up and move? Do you mind if they remove high heeled shoes to stand for part of the day? Are walking or standing meetings the norm? What written and unwritten rules govern the way people behave in your office?
Most of all, ask yourself how you’d like it to be.
Want some help creating a positive, energised, high-performance culture?
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