On average, how many hours a day do you spend sitting, uninterrupted? One hour? Two hours? Three…or more?
I make it no secret that I’m an armchair evolutionary biologist and like to think of how our bodies were originally designed. Our ancient ancestors spent much of their time on the move, hunting and gathering to serve their basic needs. The balance between movement and fuel has shifted dramatically over time, most notably since the technological revolution.
Unlike our ancestors, we no longer search for food. Instead, we now spend our days hunched over a keyboard. On an average day, many of us are likely sitting more than we are moving and consuming more calories than we are burning. Many of us regularly put in eight-hour workdays seated at a desk – sometimes even more. We then go home and unwind on the couch, binge-watching our favourite shows. The hours begin to add up.
Maybe we make a little time to fit in some exercise each day; however, with more conveniences at our fingertips, we can do a lot more while moving a lot less. The longer we sit, the more our bodies begin to feel tight, tired and sore, not to mention our growing waistlines. It’s clear that too much sitting isn’t good for us, but did you know that it can even lead to an early death?
Sitting and Premature Death
That’s right…too much sitting can kill you! In fact, some experts are loudly declaring that “sitting is the new smoking” because its impact is so significant. According to recent research from the Journal of the American Heart Association, prolonged sitting presents similar health risks as smoking, such as heart disease, lung cancer, and diabetes. It also increases premature death by about 50 percent! What’s worse, too much sitting increases your risk for an early death regardless of your fitness level or other lifestyle habits. So much for that hour of CrossFit or yoga in your day…(but hey, don’t you dare stop doing that, because it’s awesomely healthy for many many other reasons!)
But sitting isn’t just bad for your heart or metabolism; it is also bad for your brain! Researchers at the University of California have discovered a connection between sedentary behaviour and thinning regions in the brain that are critical to new memory formation. If you find yourself constantly forgetting why you went into the other room, your desk-jockey job may be to blame.
So, what if your job requires you to be at a desk all day, every day? Since I know you can’t just quit your job, here are a few simple things you can do to ensure that you keep your body regularly moving for a longer, healthier life.
Dr. Hillary’s Tips to Sit Less & Live Longer
1. Fit in Exercise Whenever Possible
Bottom line, the more frequently you work out, the more you reduce your risk of premature death. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Exercise needs to be an activity you like, so don’t choose something you hate to do, but do keep an open mind about how you can incorporate it into your life. While exercising 10 minutes or more at a time is ideal, shorter but frequent bursts of exercise, like taking the stairs, can also be an excellent way to keep active. If it puts you out of breath for a few moments, that’s a good thing!
2. Move Every 30 Minutes
Research shows that people who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time have the lowest risk of early death. Meetings and deadlines don’t always offer the freedom to move, but ideally, you don’t want to be sitting for any longer than three hours at a time. Setting a timer on your phone can be a helpful reminder to take regular moments for movement. My favourite hack – drink lots of water at your desk! This way, you’ll be forced to get up to use the bathroom AND you’ll be better hydrated to boot!
3. Use a Fitness Tracker
If you’re competitive and numbers-driven, this method is for you. Fitness trackers are an effective way to ensure you’re getting enough activity in your day. As health and fitness wearables grow in popularity, there is an increasing number of options available for every budget and lifestyle. There are also a wide variety of exercise apps out there to track your progress and monitor your success with motivational milestones to keep you moving. Some even provide rewards points to your favourite cards, such a Scene or Air Miles.
4. Try a Standing Desk
As awareness grows about the health concerns associated with chronic and prolonged sitting, more companies have already begun re-examining ways they can improve employee wellness. In some environments, adjustable desks are offered to provide workers with opportunities to stand instead of sitting if they so choose. If a standing desk is not an option for you, try moving your laptop to a tall counter or table as a means to squeeze in more standing. You shouldn’t stand all day, but a mixture of both standing and sitting is healthiest.
5. Opt for Less Convenience
We live in a world of many technological conveniences, and yet, we take so many of them for granted — and in some cases to our detriment. Turn back time by opting for less convenient choices in your day. Walk over and have a conversation with your colleague instead of sending an email. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Bike to work instead of drive. Get off a stop early on transit. Small activities can make a significant impact!
Do you spend excessive amounts of time sitting? Do you experience any health problems that you think could be related to a sedentary lifestyle, such as back pain or an ever-growing belly? Let’s chat and get to the root of your health issues. Book an appointment with me and together we will find ways to improve your overall health and well-being so that you can live your life to its fullest.
Call or email us at 647-772-4396 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To your best health!
Your hormone advocate,