The average American is sedentary for around 7.7 hours a day. That means most of us spend over two full days of each week sitting, driving or lying down. Unfortunately, this has lead to some huge problems in terms of our health. More than 3.2 million deaths each year are related to physical inactivity, and sedentariness is now the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Yikes.
Sedentary lifestyles have become such a problem that medical professionals often refer to extreme sedentariness as the "sitting disease." Researchers have found that women who were inactive and sat for over six hours a day during a particular study were 94 percent more likely to die than those who only sat for three hours. Men who were inactive in the same scenario were 48 percent more likely to die. People who sit often are also more likely to get diabetes and/or suffer from heart disease.
In short, cars, TVs, computer-based jobs and other modern developments are slowly killing us, and most people have no idea. It's no wonder that the scientific community refers to sitting as "the new smoking."
Thankfully, there are some ways you can try to combat the sitting disease and stay healthy, even if you have an office job that sticks you behind a monitor for seven to eight hours a day.
Try to Move Around Throughout the Day, Not Just After Work
It's a common misconception that hitting the gym or going for a run after you leave the office can compensate for your sedentariness. However, doctors have found that the negative impacts of sitting can still cause problems, even if you exercise for two hours in the evening. This means that you need to find ways to get moving in the office, not just out of it.
Take frequent trips to the bathroom that's on the other side of the building. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Stand during meetings or walk and talk with colleagues. The more you can get moving at work, the more you'll counteract the negative effects of the sitting disease.
Invest in a Standing Desk
Although this is not an option for everyone, standing desks can transform the way your office environment affects your body. Standing while working burns more calories and lowers your risk of weight gain and obesity while also managing your blood sugar levels. A standing desk may also decrease your risk of heart disease, reduce back pain and even leave you feeling happier after a long day of work.
Engage in Regular Strength Training Exercises
When you walk and stand a lot, your bones become stronger. Unfortunately, leading a sedentary lifestyle decreases bone strength and muscle strength. That's why hitting the weight room every now and then is exceedingly important for sedentary people. Make up for your loss of bone and muscle health by building strength outside of work. This won't completely reverse the effects of sitting, but it will certainly help.
Monitor Your Sedentary Activity With Technology
Most people have some form of an activity monitor like a smartwatch or Fitbit. Use these tools to stay on top of your physical and sedentary activities. You can even set reminders on your accessory so that it notifies you when you've been sitting for too long. The more you're aware of your sedentary behaviors, the easier it will be to counteract them with healthy physical activity.
Stretch Your Muscles Occasionally
Even if you can't step away from your desk long enough to take a walk, at least stand up and stretch your muscles every few hours. This will allow your muscles to warm up and reduce feelings of fatigue and bad posture while improving your muscle coordination. If you need some ideas for stretches you can do at the office without looking ridiculous, check out this link.
Do you sit for most of the day at work? How do you counteract the negative effects of being sedentary? Leave other suggestions in the comments!