As you read this article you are most likely seated at your computer in an office chair, leaned at least slightly forward with your head protruding further than your chest and ignoring the fact that your chair has built-in arm rests. Was I close? This may seem like a natural, comfortable position and one that you assume automatically when you arrive at your workstation but what you may not know is that this posture, or lack thereof, is putting you at serious risk of developing a plethora of maladies some of which are life threatening health issues ranging from tendinitis to cancer and cardiovascular disease (yikes). This isn’t to say though, that you should immediately quit your office job and become a nomadic hunter/gatherer to avoid the risks associated with prolonged periods of sitting, but there are some steps you can take to improve your health and reduce your chance of physical impairment and disease.
The average person spends 50-70 percent of their day at work and with the amount of people who work in an office-type setting constantly growing it comes with little shock that many healthcare professionals are calling sitting the “new smoking.” This is because excessive sitting is shown to contribute to the development of cancer and other serious diseases. In a review of data collected from 47 studies the information linking sitting to early death was staggering, perhaps one of the most shocking findings being that those who live a sedentary lifestyle are 90% more likely to develop type-2 diabetes. The risk for cancer also rises by about 16%, for cardiovascular disease the risk goes up by 18% and the overall risk of early death from health related issues increases by 24%. These figures make a sedentary lifestyle more lethal than obesity even in a relatively healthy person.
There are many things you can do, however, to help negate the effects of long term sitting some of which are extremely simple such as getting up from your desk every 30 minutes or so and taking a short walk around the office for at least 30 seconds, this movement stimulates the muscles and helps to activate an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase that burns fat, though simply standing will change the distribution of weight in your body and aid in spinal fluid distribution as well as blood circulation. Now, you’re not alone in the battle against the effects of sitting as there are many products available to aid you in achieving healthier, more ergonomic work habits such as adjustable desks which can be raised (some with just the touch of a button) to a standing height or a “desk-cycle” which can be placed underneath a desk and used throughout the day to provide some physical activity without having to leave your work. Some companies are even opting for treadmill-desks which are exactly what they sound like, a standing desk combined with a treadmill that allows employees to walk at a leisurely pace while working.
Now some of these options may sound expensive and unnecessary but the premise behind all of them remains the same, the best way to counter extended periods of inactivity is to be active! Simple, right? You could prolong your own life and drastically reduce your risk of impairment or serious disease just by moving and walking around once in a while! Combine these tips with a healthy diet and even light regular exercise and you will be on your way to a healthier, longer and happier life.