Nearly 70 percent of costs associated with health care are due to preventable conditions, and new research confirms that spending long hours sitting down during commuting and working can play a significant role in the development of chronic disease.
In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that sitting in and of itself is an independent risk factor for poor health and premature death—even if you exercise regularly. Researchers have dubbed this phenomenon the “active couch potato effect.”
Even the World Health Organization (WHO) now lists inactivity as the fourth biggest killer of adults, responsible for nine percent of premature deaths1.
In the video above, Dr. Jeff Spencer shares his tips on how to stay active at the workplace.
Research by Dr. Joan Vernikos2, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division (one of the primary doctors assigned to keep the astronauts from deteriorating in space) and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, shows that your body actually needs to perpetually interact with gravity through motion in order to function optimally.
Interestingly, with regard to counteracting the ill effects of sitting, simply standing up every 10 minutes or so is actually more effective than taking a walk. And, it’s not how long you stand up, but how many times you stand up that makes the difference.
How to Get More Active During Work Hours
A recent article in The Guardian3 offers several common sense tips for getting more movement into your day-to-day life, especially during work hours.
Using a pedometer will help you assess how many steps you take throughout your work day; then simply make a concerted effort to continuously increase the number of steps you take daily. Simple changes to the way you move about the office can add up, such as:
Walking across the hall to talk to a coworker instead of sending an email
Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
Parking your car further away from the entrance
Taking a longer, roundabout way to your desk
Another strategy that can help eliminate some of the sitting is to hold standing-only office meetings. This tends to discourage unnecessary discourse and make meetings more productive in less time. Making slight alterations to your individual work space can also make a difference. For example, you can:
Organize the layout of your office space in such a way that you have to stand up to reach oft-used files, the telephone, or your printer, rather than having everything within easy reach. Ideally, you’ll want to stand up at least once every 10 minutes, or more, so simply moving one or more things you frequently reach for could allow you to build this kind of movement into your regular work day.
Use an exercise ball for a chair. Unlike sitting in a chair, sitting on an exercise ball engages your core muscles and helps improve balance and flexibility. Occasional bouncing can also help your body interact with gravity to a greater degree than sitting on a stationary chair.
Alternatively, use an upright wooden chair with no armrest, which will force you to sit up straight, and encourage shifting your body more frequently than a cushy office chair.
Use a standing workstation. Standing rather than sitting while doing your work can also be a helpful option. For a demonstration on proper posture, whether you’re sitting or using a standing workstation, check out Kelly Starrett’s video in this previous article.