Which is why this excellent NY Times article by Zack Canepari is so important. It opens with these provocative words:
Your chair is your enemy.
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.
We all knew that sitting down all day is bad for you, but I at least thought that you could offset this with plenty of exercise outside of work. I was wrong.
The article goes on to list two reasons why sitting down is so bad for your health. First, it’s extremely passive which means your body burns very few calories while you sit. Just standing up activates your whole system to a much larger degree and burns more energy. As the article says:
Part of the problem with sitting a lot is that you don’t use as much energy as those who spend more time on their feet. This makes it easier to gain weight, and makes you more prone to the health problems that fatness often brings.
But it doesn’t stop there. Apparently:
…when you spend long periods sitting, your body actually does things that are bad for you.
Actively contracting muscles produce a whole suite of substances that have a beneficial effect on how the body uses and stores sugars and fats.
There’s science to back this up:
A study of people who sit for many hours found that those who took frequent small breaks — standing up to stretch or walk down the corridor — had smaller waists and better profiles for sugar and fat metabolism than those who did their sitting in long, uninterrupted chunks.
Go read the whole article – it’s a great read.
To all of this, I’d add that in my experience being physically inactive also dulls my mind. If you sit down passively all day, this makes it harder to be creative, energetic and motivated.
So what’s the solution?
Given the problem, it’s obvious that solution can’t be all about exercising before and after your work day. This wouldn’t address the fact that you’d still be sitting still for long periods of time. The solution has to be about integrating movement into the work day.
Here are three things you can do about this:
1: Take a lunch walk
Make it a tradition to take a short walk with some co-workers every day after lunch. Not only is this a chance to get moving, it can also be a nice way to chat with your co-workers and refresh workplace relationships.
2: Get up and move regularly
Make it a rule to never sit down more than 30 minutes at a time. Then you must get up to stretch, go smoke, get coffee, go chat to someone in the next office, whatever.
Set a timer to remind you if that’s what it takes. There’s even software you can install on your PC to remind you to get away from the PC :o)
3: Work standing up some of the time
There are many things you can do at work, even if your butt isn’t firmly planted in your chair. You can have stand-up meetings which have the added advantage that they’re a lot shorter! You can do your phone calls standing up, which has the advantage that your voice sounds clearer and more energetic. You can even work on your computer standing up if you have a desk that raises or can find a high table.
I really, really like the Specialized Lunch Ride:
How much of your work day is spent in a chair? Have you thought about how this affects you mentally and physically? What do you do to get out of your chair?
Please write a comment – I’d love to hear your take.
I wrote this post standing up :o)