I read an interesting article several months ago in the LA Times (read it here). It was an interview with Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University. He had some interesting things to say about the negative health implications of sitting too much, even saying “sitting could be worse than smoking.”
Dr. Levine mentions that for every hour you sit, you lose 2 hours of your life. Based on that statement, people who sit for 8 hours a day, 5 days per week at a computer are shortening their life by more than 3 days per week. That’s pretty alarming, and it’s got me on my feet right now!
Like many, myself included, staring at a computer is a necessary evil 40, 50 or more hours each week. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be sitting. There are several options to get off your ass while you work, which I’ll describe below.
Consequences of sitting all day
Sedentary lifestyles are a recipe for obesity. Next comes all the obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and many more.
Being sedentary also zaps all your energy and productivity. So while you think that taking a break from work to take a 15 minute walk is counterproductive, you’ve got it all wrong. It helps boost your energy, blood flow and brain function which all has a positive effect on your productivity.
Dr. Levine puts it this way: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
How to be more active at work
It’s as simple as taking a couple brisk walks each day, such as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon jaunt. The American Heart Association lists multiple benefits of walking; a few of these include:
- Improved mental well-being
- Lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes
- Weight loss
It’s something I can personally vouch for, since I use a standing desk setup every day.
There are full-size standing desks out there you can purchase (expensive), or go the inexpensive route like I did, and just purchase a laptop stand you can place on a table or existing desk to raise your computer to the level you need it at while standing. You can also build your own.
I spent maybe $25-$30 for my laptop stand, and while a little shaky when the legs are extended, it holds my relatively heavy 17-inch laptop securely. I haven’t had any issues with it.
While it doesn’t seem like much different compared to sitting, standing at your desk makes a world of difference. Just try it for a day, and I can guarantee your legs will be a little sore that evening!
Standing all day makes it easier to move about the office, and you’ll find yourself – almost unconsciously – stretching, swaying to background music, or doing little exercises, such as mini squats, to keep your legs from cramping up.
All these activities are healthful, further making standing a far superior choice compared to sitting on an office chair all day long.
A study reported on by the BBC found that you burn an extra 50 calories per hour standing versus sitting – that adds up to an extra 400 calories burned per day if you were to stand a full 8 hours. Not bad.
If you must sit…
Consider trying out an exercise ball chair. While you’re still in a sitting position, these chairs stimulate your core muscles by forcing you to balance on the ball.
You can read more about office ball chairs here.
While not the perfect solution, a ball chair is better than sitting at a traditional office chair all day.
It all comes down to incorporating physically activity in your daily routine, no matter how intense (or lack thereof) it may be. Every little bit helps.
Make a small change in your daily life by cutting down on the amount of time your ass meets the chair. It’s really made a positive impact in my life, and who knew such as a small change could make such a positive impact.