Just 50 years ago in 1960, over 50 percent of jobs held by Americans required at least moderate physical activity. But now, only 20 percent of jobs require any physical effort at all. The other 80 percent of working Americans are sitting at desks all day long. The switch from moderately active to sedentary jobs means that Americans now burn 120 to 140 calories less per day. Day after day, year after year, those calories add up to steady weight gain and a general decline in health. Even if you exercise and lead an active lifestyle, you still may not be doing enough to ward off the negative benefits of a sedentary lifestyle.
Why Sitting Down Is Killing You
So, why is sitting down so dangerous? As soon as you sit, your body begins to shut down. Activity in your legs stops, your body only burns 1 calorie a minute, fat dissolving enzymes drop by 90 percent, your good cholesterol drops 30 percent and your insulin effectiveness decreases by 24 percent while your risk of diabetes increases. The human body wasn’t made to sit for extended periods of time, and doing so has serious repercussions.
How It’s Being Changed
The dangers of sitting are becoming well known. As obesity and heart disease steadily increase, companies are becoming more aware of the problems with a sedentary desk job. While companies can’t close their doors, they can still encourage employees to be more active. Standing desks, weight loss competitions and frequent breaks can help. Even trucking companies are requiring their drivers to spend less time sitting by installing EOBR (Electronic On Board Recorder) units in each truck. The EOBR unit requires drivers to log a certain number of driving hours and then take time off to rest, sleep and maybe exercise before they can drive more.
What You Can Do
Want to get out your chair more often but you’re not sure how? Check out these easy tips for how you can spend less and less time sitting each day.
- Drink more water. Invest in a water bottle with measurements on the side and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water per day. Staying hydrated will give you a natural reminder to get up every hour or so to take a break.
- Walk up the stairs. If your office building has stairs, start using the second floor bathroom so you’ll get a good leg workout every time you take a bathroom break.
- Stretch. Stretching for 5-10 minutes every hour is a great way to keep your muscles awake and working.
- Take frequent breaks. Try to take a break once every hour or so where you walk around the office or around your office building. If you work near a parking garage, walk to the top of the garage or take the stairs to the top and come back down a few times.
- Work out during your lunch. Working out for 30 minutes to an hour during your lunch break is a great way to clear your mind and wake up your muscles. Work out at your office park gym, take a short class at a fitness studio nearby or pack a good pair of shoes and go for a walk or run. Just remember: Even if you work out during lunch, you still need to take walking and stretching breaks during your day.
- Talk to your HR office. Ask your HR office if they’ll order you a standing desk and ergonomic mat for your feet. If they won’t buy it, you can also ask to be reimbursed for the expense.
Anything you can do to get up every hour, get active and get moving will have great benefits for your overall, long-term health. Make your health a priority and do everything you can to get out of your chair more often.