As an approaching-middle-aged mom, wife, and professional, I do a lot of sitting. Whether it’s at my desk, in the car, or in front of an entertaining screen, I am more often than not reclining in some way. Aside from the seven hours of sleep I try to get each night, I probably average eight-and-a-half hours of sitting in a chair each day.
It’s a number that, these days, is downright alarming. Sitting, in fact, has become the new chronic condition. A 2016 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the effects of sitting too long may increase your risk of premature death, thanks to its contributing to a large variety of ailments, including:
- Heart disease
- Overproductive pancreas, which can lead to diabetes
- Colon cancer
- Muscle degeneration (buh-bye six pack)
- Leg disorders including poor circulation and soft bones
- Foggy brain
- Bad back
In a sense, sitting is the new smoking. Scary, right? Don’t worry. An entire anti-sitting industry has cropped up to help you avoid falling into the trap that so much of working America has succumbed to. There are standing desks and special exercise-ball chairs – all at price points to fit every budget, of course. (My favorite take on the ball chair has to be Kyle MacLaghlan’s portrayal of the Mayor of Portland in Portlandia. Priceless.)
If spending $500 on a newfangled desk doesn’t sound like the best course of action for your budget, there are several more cost-conscious options to consider. Try getting up and walking around in between tasks. Set alarms throughout the day to remind you to move around. Try one of the many five-minute exercise apps out there designed just for folks working in office environments. (I’ll never forget a keynote speaker leading me and the rest of her audience through a four-minute exercise routine during a healthcare conference last year. Peer pressure does wonders for performance, even if you’re in high heels and a suit.)
If, like me, you work from home on a regular basis, take a lunch break and get a nice walk in. You could even consider starting a lunchtime walking club at your office. Also consider talking with your employer about adding incentives for getting up and moving around to the company’s health and wellness program. Employees like to be incentivized into healthy behaviors, and employers like the increased productivity that results.
In a nutshell, sitting doesn’t have to be the new silent killer. You can take back your health (and your posture) by intentionally moving around for a few minutes several times a day. Tack on a more regimented dose of daily exercise, and you’ll put the depressing statistics associated with prolonged chair time to shame.