Unless you’ve been firmly planted under a rock for the last twenty or thirty years, you already know about most of the health hazards related to smoking. Like chronic smoking, excessive sitting has detrimental effects on the body. Likewise, you probably don’t want to listen to me get philosophical about the benefits of regular exercise – it’s just a given. People need to get regular exercise to ensure they maintain optimal health. However, some pretty shocking research recently is suggesting that even if you endeavor to get 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 5 times per week – you may not be doing enough.
Why is Sitting Bad?
Sitting down every once in a while isn’t the worst thing for you. Sitting for more than 9 hours per day is harmful and has extreme negative effects on the body such as:
- Constricting blood flow
- Damaging bones
- Stunting growth
- Increasing the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease
- Decreasing enzyme release by 90%.
- Gaining weight
All of this combined could even lead to premature death.
The History of Sitting
Think about it – humans evolved as hunter-gatherers. Our ancestors were required to exert an immense amount of energy just to survive. Obtaining food and finding shelter were activities that required a lot of physical effort; exercise was actually a way of life. We spent the majority of our time outdoors, moving about and there was little time to sit around for humans to thrive in invariably harsh environments.
On the other hand, the necessities of survival are all but guaranteed to humans in today’s society. We drive to the supermarket to pick up our food for the week, and sometimes we even have others prepare that food for us. Many of us sit at the office in front of a computer, and at the end of the day we plunk down on the couch and turn on the TV. We evolved as active people, but we’ve become very sedentary. As you can clearly see, throughout modern human history the amount of time we devote to physical activity has decreased significantly while sedentary time has increased.
5 Easy Ways to Keep Active
Incorporating activity in your life is very easy. Try any of these five simple tips to get more active:
1. Get Active With Your Breaks
When you’re at work, instead of heading to the break room to sit around and chat, think about taking a ten minute walk. A short burst of activity will dramatically improve the way you feel and help mitigate the effects of being sedentary all day.
2. Move Around Every Hour
In addition to short walks during your break, aim to move around throughout the day. If you sit, or even stand, all day, take a two minute walk around the office every hour. These two minutes every hour can go a long way in minimizing negative health effects.
3. Move and Sit
Although you may sit all day, you don’t need to be still. Stretch and move your legs while sitting in a chair, or opt to sit on a yoga ball. Sitting on a yoga ball means that you will constantly make small postural changes, which means you’ll be moving.
4. Ditch Your Car
You might be able to drive somewhere in ten minutes, but you can probably walk there in thirty minutes. Consider driving or biking to work; and if that’s not possible, why not drive or bus part way, and walk or bike the rest? It’s an easy way to incorporate some activity into your busy schedule.
5. Get Up, Stand Up
You don’t necessarily have to sit all day at work, do you? Especially if you have a progressive employer, you work from home, or you’re willing to invest on your own in a standing desk – think about standing while you work. Talk to your employer about the health benefits, and you might be surprised at how supportive they are. You can even make your own standing desk. If you work with a computer, use sturdy boxes to elevate your computer screen, keyboard, and mouse. It is a great way to try a standing desk without breaking the bank.
These are just a few simple ideas you can work into your day. Do you have other tips and ideas? Leave a comment below.