As far back as our hunter-gatherer years, the human body was designed to move around throughout the day, cycling through a number of different postures. Now that we’re deep in the digital era, most of us move around way less than we used to. Of course, it’s a good thing that we don’t all have to risk our health to hunt for food anymore, and technology has saved us from hours of unnecessary backbreaking labor. All these labor saving efforts have allowed us to relax more, and given us health and free time to evolve, think, write, and be creative. But too much of this new rest and relaxation time is currently being spent on our butts, and as we avoid all the old injuries and diseases of pre-technological times, we’re now switching over to new, sedentary ones.
A typical day for adults and children alike now consists of about eight hours sitting down in a classroom or office. Then, when we come home, we sit down for a few hours watching television or movies, or else watching sports and playing video games. After that, we lounge around the house scrolling through our Facebook and Instagram feeds. It’s not just digital time, either. Even otherwise healthy leisure activities like reading books or painting still count as time spent sedentary (unless you paint standing up!). Studies show that people are spending as much as 70 percent of their day sitting or lying down, and it’s got serious consequences.
It’s time to fight back against laziness and reclaim our health! Don’t worry, there’s tools to help you along the way. Here’s some simple tips to help you stand up to sedentary behavior.
One of the best ways to motivate yourself to change your lifestyle is by becoming aware of what’s at stake. As research continues to emerge about the dangers of sedentary lifestyles, it has never been easier to educate yourself about the damage you’re doing to your body by sitting down all day, as well as the steps you can take to make a change.
You don’t have to search very hard to find the research. International bodies like the WHO have even acknowledged the problem, labeling physical inactivity as one of the top ten causes of death and disease in the world. And just a little bit of research will help you understand why this alarming fact has come to be – sedentary behavior comes with a whole host of physical side effects, from weakening bones and muscles to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The laundry list of potential diseases and side effects is truly frightening – even just a glance at the research will probably inspire you to stand up!
The good news is that there’s plenty of options to keep you healthy, even if you’re a desk-bound worker. As research keeps pouring in about the risk of sitting too long, so too does information and advice about what to do about the risks.
Add Movement to Your Work Day
What you do outside of work isn’t enough to cancel out the negative effects of sitting down for the rest of the day. It’s still important to reduce sedentary behavior during the work day, even if you hit the gym as soon as you leave the office. Reducing sitting at work by at least two hours a day, together with around 4 hours of exercise each week, is the ideal combination for best health. And the best part of standing up to work is that you’ll be burning calories without having to do any kind of intensive exercise!
Switching to a sit-stand desk is the easiest way to add movement to your work day. There are dozens of brands and models to choose from that you can adapt and customize to your own workspace, from attachments that you can place on top of your existing desk and take with you to other workstations, to whole new desks that are measured to fit your height and office precisely.
Outside of the desk you use, there are many other ways to add physical activity into your day. Walking meetings are becoming more popular, and some studies are suggesting that they are even more productive than conventional seated meetings. If you have an hour of meetings a day, you can switch out an entire hour of sitting just by holding walking meetings. Inside the building, you can also stand up to take all your phone calls. As it becomes more common to use a cell phone for business, rather than a stationary wall phone, you can even take walks while you take calls. And of course, walking or biking to work and to lunch, and then taking the stairs rather than the elevator, are simple substitutions to add a bit of exercise to your work day.
What You Give Is What You Get
Once you see the results of sitting down less at work, you’ll never want to go back. Being more active comes with a whole plethora of health benefits, ranging from losing weight and trimming stomach fat to lowering your blood pressure and blood sugar, from reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke to building stronger muscles and bones. The benefits go beyond the physical, too.
Studies show that there’s a relationship between mental health and activity. Not only does this mean that physical activity can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, but also that people who are more physically active have higher productivity levels and report being more efficient and creative at work.
You don’t have to do much. Start small to get into a routine, and you will probably be inspired by the results you start to see. Research has shown that standing for even a few minutes at a time after long term sitting has a positive effect on the body. It’s really incredible what can change when you stand up to sedentary behavior and become a more active, one step at a time.