As you read this, you’re probably doing something very dangerous—sitting. Not what you expected? Prolonged periods of sitting can be dangerous to your health, and are associated with higher risk of death from all causes, including heart problems and cancer.
“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking,” says Martha Grogan, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic.
Our sedentary culture is literally killing us, with an associated 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause and 125 percent increased risk of death associated with cardiovascular disease, especially when comparing those with greater sitting for screen time to lesser.
This is concerning, as most Americans spend the majority of their work and leisure hours sitting. A full 86 percent of workers sit all day, every day, on average spending nine to 10 hours sitting down. How can we counteract such a widespread problem?
Americans tend to believe that our sedentary lifestyles can be combated by occasional visits to the gym. However, this is ineffective. Even spending large amounts of time exercising intensely at the gym won’t offset the cost of sitting for extended periods. A good workout at the PWA Fitness Center still has health benefits – muscle strengthening, body tone, flexibility, and core strengthening, among others, which help reduce falls, improve energy levels, and increase strength capacity. In terms of wellness, you also need to move throughout the day.
“Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sit around the rest of the day,” says Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement. “You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”
And that’s for people who go to the gym at all—more than half of Americans don’t, following up their inactive work lives with inactive leisure. If after-hours exercise won’t help, how can you avoid turning a desk job into a literal death sentence?
stand, Stand, STAND!
Standing uses extra calories, activates muscle groups, improves posture and blood flow, and heightens your metabolism. The only way to combat the “sitting disease” is to not do it, and to substitute in standing whenever you can.
Incorporating more standing into your day isn’t as hard as you may think. Put your computer or workstation up high and stand when working instead of sitting. If that’s too hard or not a possibility, set a timer that goes off every half hour and stand up then. You could also park further away from your building; take the stairs instead of the elevator; or go to your colleagues’ offices in person instead of calling or sending an email.
When you do talk on the phone, stand up. Watch TV while standing or walking around. If that seems like too much, stand up during the commercial breaks. See if your colleagues will agree to a “walking meeting” where you all walk laps around the building instead of sitting around a conference table. We have sidewalks throughout our campus at GRMC and we are encouraged to use that resource, along with other available resources, to inject some activity into our otherwise static work lives. While standing all day may be impractical for you or your job, stand as much as you can. Even just a little extra activity can make a difference.
Written by Anya Silva, GRMC summer intern