My grandmother used to like to tell me, “Back in the day, we had to walk to school”; “barefoot and in the snow”, I would add playfully. But the truth is, “back in the day” they didn’t sit as much as we do now. My grandmother lived to be 95 years old, and was still hanging out her clothes on a clothesline well into her eighties. I’m sure the fact that she kept moving contributed somewhat to her long life.
Several years ago I made a career moved that changed my activity level. I now spend a lot of time sitting. My job requires that I drive a lot – sometimes I’m in the car a couple hours a day. Luckily, I get to walk every 45-60 minutes or so. But then I have to prepare reports that may take 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours each, to complete. If you add all that time up, I’m sitting 50% or more of the day.
Today, many people have jobs that require them to sit a lot; bus drivers, office workers, computer artists, just to name a few. Most of us work a minimum of 40 hours a week. Add a couple of hours reading, watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the web each day, and you may well be spending more than 50% of your life on your caboose. What make this a really bad thing is that recent studies show that all that sitting is increasing our risk of disease, even if we exercise. There has even been a term coined for it – The Sitting Disease. And although we may hit the trails or the gym daily, it may not be enough to offset the damage all that sitting is causing.
Based on the results of several recent studies, the Times’ Olivia Judson writes:
It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting – in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home – you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.
Indeed, if you consider only healthy people who exercise regularly, those who sit the most during the rest of the day have larger waists and worse profiles of blood pressure and blood sugar than those who sit less. Among people who sit in front of the television for more than three hours each day, those who exercise are as fat as those who don’t: sitting a lot appears to offset some of the benefits of jogging a lot.
What exactly does all that sitting do to our bodies? According to the Mayo Clinic –
Electrical activity in leg muscles shuts down
Your body effectively stops burning calories
Enzymes that break down fat drop by 90 percent
HDL cholesterol production drops by 20 percent
The risk of diabetes increases 24 percent.
Dr. James A. Levine shares that one recent study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV or other screen-based entertainment with those who logged more than four hours a day of recreational screen time. Those with greater screen time had:
A nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause
About a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack
This increased risk was separate from other traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking or high blood pressure. – Mayo Clinic
This is pretty scary info. So what can we do to fight “sitting disease”? Well, for starters we can start to find ways during the day to move more.
Park at the back of the parking lot so you have a longer walk to the building.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Instead of sending an email, deliver the message in person.
Walk around the building at lunch time.
When making phone calls walk around the room.
Set a timer to alert you hourly so that you can get up and walk.
Every 60 minutes, do a few squats or desk push-ups.
Get a standing desk.
I work at home so I have no parking lot to walk, messages to deliver, or stairs to take. However, I can do the push-ups/squats and walk a few blocks at lunch time. I also bought a $10 stair stepper at a yard sale – and now I have a standing desk!
Well, actually it’s an adjustable standing desk, which was sent to me by Varidesk. I have been using it now for a couple of months and I absolutely love it! The Varidesk allows me to alternate between sitting and standing, which my chiropractor said was best for my back and posture.
Talk about easy installation -when my desk arrived all I had to do was pull it out of the box and set it on my existing desk. No fuss, no muss. It isn’t big or cumbersome. I still have room for my phone, desk calendar and most importantly – coffee cup! And it adjusts SO easily – press a latch on each side to slide it up or down – that’s it!
As I said earlier, I’ve been using this desk for a couple of months. Not only did I notice I had more energy, but my boyfriend commented on that as well. Before using a standing desk, I would notice that by the end of the day my back hurt, my shoulders were tired and tight, and I would feel wiped out. But now my body does not feel as tired at the end of the day.
When I’m standing and working, I also feel more alert and focused. To be honest, I feel I get more work done because I’m not so easily distracted. If you stand too long however, you will compromise good posture. You know how we all do when we start to feel a little tired, we put all our weight on one leg, push our hips out, slouch our shoulders. If you start to do these things then you need to SIT DOWN! That’s what I love about this desk – when I start to feel tired from standing, in one click I can lower the desk to sitting position!
Need a timer to remind you to stand? The Varidesk has an app for that! On their website there is an app you can download to your desktop that allows you to adjust the minutes for standing and sitting. It will “alert” you with a tone when it’s time to alternate. How great is that?! There is one thing that I recommend however, buying a gel pad to stand on; it will help with fatigue in your feet.
With this standing desk, little movements through the day, and my gym routine I am on my way to being healthier than ever! All I can say is thank you Varidesk!
To learn more about the Varidesk, click the video below.
A recent study published by the CDC indicates adjustable sit-to-stand products are an effective solution for reducing the effects of prolonged sitting.
How many hours do you spend sitting? What do you do to keep moving throughout the day?