Are you a lunch-time exerciser like me? Think a 30-minute run will balance out all the sitting you do at your desk job (like I do)?
A recent article by Selene Yeager in Runner’s World says it won’t. In “Sitting is the New Smoking – Even for Runners,” Yeager writes that sitting is an epidemic. In fact, sitting is linked to an increased risk of all kinds of diseases, including heart, diabetes, cancer and depression.
Travis Saunders is a Ph.D. student and certified exercise physiologist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. “Up until very recently, if you exercised for 60 minutes or more a day, you were considered physically active,” he says in the article. But now, he says, research suggests “that sitting increases your risk of death and disease, even if you are getting plenty of activity.”
People who spend most of their non-exercise time sitting face the same health risks as completely inactive people, according to Australian researcher Genevieve Healy, Ph.D., of the University of Queensland, who coined the term “active couch potato” to describe the former.
What’s really scary is the numerous studies cited by Yeager in the article that show how bad sitting is for your health. Sitting, and having inactive muscles, can cause the body to shut down. Circulation slows. You use less blood sugar. You burn less fat. These things can increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Even cancer research has shown long periods of sitting can increase the risk of breast, colon and other cancers.
The best way to combat this is to stand up. Stay active throughout the day.
Watching TV? Stand up and watch for a bit or watch while you walk on a treadmill.
Eating? Why not stand at the counter and have your breakfast, lunch or dinner—especially if you will be or have been sitting at work all day.
On the phone? You don’t need to be sitting to talk.
But for all of us out there with desk jobs, what can we do?
“Even breaks as short as one minute can improve your health,” says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., director of the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo.
Stand at your desk. Stretch. Walk to the kitchen in your office and fill up your water. Take your breaks. Get a standing desk at work if you can. Some people are even using treadmill desks now, and some employers will even help subsidize the cost (ask your HR department).
Need more ideas? The article “Do You Have Sitting Disease?” gives you 11 ways to combat sitting, including “Pretend it’s 1985” and walk down the hall to ask your co-worker a question. Click the link to see all 11 ideas.
Okay, now it’s time for me to stop writing and stand up…