We sit a lot — whether it is in front of the TV, at our desks, or on a red-eye flight, Americans spend hours sitting down every day, or moving from one seat to another.
Such inactivity is accompanied by many health risks. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with obesity and metabolic syndrome, according to Mayo Clinic doctor James Levine, M.D., Ph.D.
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of health conditions including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Too much sitting can also increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, as cited on the Harvard Health Blog, the more hours 50-79 year old women spent sitting at work, driving, or in front of the TV, the greater their odds were of dying early from all causes, including heart disease and cancer.
What’s more, hitting the gym a few times a week does not offset the risks of too much sitting.
According to Dr. JoAnn Manson, who was quoted on Harvard Health Blog, even when you do the required amount of physical exercise per week, you will still have a higher risk of mortality, if you are spending too many hours sitting.
So it is time to stand up for your health!
Here are a few things you can do throughout the day to overcome the hazards of too much sitting:
1) Set your phone alarm to go off every 30 to 60 minutes.
This way, you will remember to stand up and stretch! Move around the office, and use the restrooms that are furthest away from your desk. If you have short emails to send to people who are nearby, just go into your colleague’s office and talk to them in person.
2) Do these exercises at your desk.
While sitting in your chair, extend one leg out straight in front of you, and hold for two seconds. Then raise it up as high as you can, and hold it again for two seconds. Repeat with each leg 15 times.
Do squats! You can use your office chair as an aid if you’re a beginner. Put the chair against a wall so it doesn’t move, stand in front of it, and squat down as if you were going to sit. Stand back up just before you reach the chair. Make sure you don’t let your knees extend beyond your toes to prevent injury. Repeat 20 times.
While sitting, hold your right wrist over your head with your left hand, and pull it to stretch your right side. Keep your shoulders down as your bend and hold for 10 seconds. Now hold your left wrist over your head with your right hand and stretch your left side. Repeat five times on each side.
3) Sit up straight.
If you have to sit for long periods of time, you better do it right! You should not be leaning forward, your shoulders should be relaxed, and your feet should be flat on the floor. Keep your arms close to your sides and elbows bent at 90 degrees. You can support your lower back with a small pillow.
You can sit on something wobbly like an exercise ball, which will work your core muscles throughout the day.
10 Best exercises to do at your desk. Forbes. Retrieved September 10.
The health hazards of sitting. Washington Post. Retrieved September 10.
Too much sitting linked to an early death. Health.Harvard.edu. Retrieved September 10.
What are the risks of sitting too much? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
Reviewed September 14, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith