The average American office worker is spending up to 12 hours sitting on his or her bottom. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, sitting is physiologically so much worse than simply not exercising. One hour of sitting can ‘undo’ thirty minutes of exercise or to put it another way, one hour of sitting is as detrimental as thirty minutes of exercise is beneficial.
Why is this?
There is a major difference both to our health and to the way our body responds when (a) we sit and (b) when we simply stand or move around a bit. And even just minor movements can make all the difference in preventing that physiological decline that we suffer when sitting. One of the health implications of sitting too long is of course hemorrhoids.
If you are sitting at your desk working, what can you do?
It may be difficult to make these changes to your office sedentary lifestyle, but the benefits will so outweigh some temporary inconvenience while you take on new habits.
- Stand up and take periodic short walks and breaks (and that means every half hour and no longer). Use this time to perform tasks that can be done while standing, such as making phone calls. Stand up when you answer the phone. If possible, pace near your desk for the duration of the call.
- Schedule “walking meetings.” This is ideal when you meet with just one or two people and don’t need to take notes.
- Cut back on phone calls and e-mails to co-workers and rather, when you need to speak to a co-worker, walk to their space. Not only will this get you up out of your chair and moving but you will get to know your co-worker and improve both communication and relationships.
- Try to build in different activities into your daily routine. The simple act of standing will increase your energy expenditure 300% compared with sitting. We burn just 5 calories an hour when sitting - but 15 while standing.
- Think about investing in (or asking your employers to do so) an adjustable desk which allows you to sit down on occasions when necessary but for the most part, you spend your day standing up, allowing you naturally to move around more. In fact most cubicle systems or open plan office spaces can be configured to support a high desk so that your computer sits there while you still have a low desk for making telephone calls, reading, writing or other tasks. If space constraints makes two heights impossible, an adjustable-height desk will allow you to change positions throughout the day.
- Another idea is to use the increasingly popular treadmill desk to create a walking desk. Those who have done this (using it for four to 12 hours daily) have found that their productivity and concentration have improved along with their health. Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic came up with the original idea where you slowly walk on a treadmill while working at a desk built around the treadmill. Dr. Levine believes that if individuals replaced the normal 8 hours a day of sitting at their "normal" desk with a Treadmill Desk, and if other components of energy balance were constant, a weight loss of 57 pounds a year could occur.
- On your way to and from your office, take the stairs and avoid the elevator if possible.
- Park your car a distance (half a mile for example) from your office, if practical, or if you take public transport, get off the bus or subway one or two stops before your destination.
- Take a midday walk by using half your lunch hour for a stroll to enjoy some green exercise. Apart from the exercise, abundant scientific evidence shows that activity in natural areas decreases the risk of mental illness and improves the sense of well-being. If you can just make their way to a local park or green area for an absolute minimum of 5 minutes every lunch break, you will benefit.