Have you ever come to the end of your day only to realize you barely ever got up from your chair? Trust me, I know the feeling. As someone who specializes in nutrition, health, and fitness, I often grow frustrated by the amount of sitting my job requires — it’s as though I have to choose between work and actually practicing what I preach.
It might appear that on the surface this “sitting disease” carries limited significance, but sitting too much can actually have serious negative effects on your health, especially considering that the average American sits 11 hours/day. With 60-85% of the world population not engaging in enough physical activity, according to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is included in the top four leading risk factors for mortality.
The Negative Effects of Sitting Too Much
A sedentary lifestyle has direct health risks, many of which we might not expect. Here are just some to be aware of:
- Weakness in the Bones & Muscles: The more you sit and the less you move, the more likely your bones and muscles will lose their strength and flexibility. In more serious cases, even osteoporosis can occur.
- Back Pain: Keeping your body fixed in the same position for that many hours can put a lot of unnecessary stress on your back.
- Obesity: This one should be obvious. If you take in significantly more calories than you burn, weight gain is unavoidable.
- Cardiovascular Disease: A sedentary lifestyle can slow down your circulation and put you at risk for heart disease, cholesterol buildup, and high blood pressure.
- Metabolic Syndrome: When you sit too much, you can develop metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that doctors identify as preceding more serious illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
- Increased Risk of Cancer: Some studies have connected a sedentary lifestyle with colon, breast, and uterine cancers.
- Increased Feelings of Depression and Anxiety: Physical activity releases key hormones called endorphins that help improve mood. If you don’t move, you don’t get these hormones. Simple as that.
Addressing The Problem
Reversing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle can take time and sometimes, there are no ways to avoid the fact that my job requires me to sit at a desk for a large portion of my day. Even so, I’ve developed a few strategies to minimize the time I spend glued to my seat.
I take a walk during lunch almost every day. As tempting as it might be to kick back the full hour and enjoy my meal, I make an effort to spend half the time eating and half the time briskly going around the block. When you’re stuck in an office for a long time, any bit helps. Besides, there is scientific evidence supporting the fact that only 7 minutes of moderate walking per day can make a meaningful difference for your body and physical health.
I decided to demo the FlexiSpot standing desk riser. One of the major benefits is that it allows me to convert my regular desk into a standing desk whenever I feel the need to get up off of my bum, and it’s a fraction of the cost of a full-on standing desk.
I try to stand for at least a few hours each day; it lets me incorporate physical activity into my routine without thinking. In fact, I now record all of my podcasts and take all interviews standing up as opposed to being slouched over my desk. Having something like the FlexiSpot is probably your best bet to help combat a sedentary lifestyle because, as we all know, it’s not always possible to get a nice walk or jog in during the workday.
One final tip: choose the stairs over the elevator whenever possible. It’s a great way to sneak in a bit of exercise, and stair climbing actually burns more calories than plain ol’ walking!
Why risk the adverse effects of living a sedentary lifestyle when you can easily make a change? Swap the traditional desk for a sit-standing desk, take a walk, climb the stairs — just get moving!