Monday Medical: Stand, don’t sit
Driving to the office, enjoying a good meal, working on a computer, relaxing with a movie — all these activities have one thing in common scientists say is harming our health: sitting.
It may seem like an innocuous activity, but sitting is being called “the new smoking.” Sitting for too many hours each day can actually increase risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and more.
Most Americans sit far too much every day. The good news is that by changing habits and moving more, we can counteract the negative impacts of sitting.
One study reviewed the impact of spending time in front of a screen to relax. Adults who had more than four hours of recreational screen time a day (watching television or playing video games) were compared to adults who spent fewer than two free hours a day in front of a screen. Those with the greater amount of screen time increased their risk of issues with cardiovascular disease by about 125 percent. In fact, their risk of death by any cause was increased by 50 percent.
Another study suggested if Americans cut their sitting time in half, to fewer than two hours a day, their life expectancy would increase by about two years.
Students who were allowed to stand and work rather than stay desk-bound were also studied. This group was found to be less fidgety, took fewer bathroom breaks and scored up to 20 percent higher on achievement tests than they previously had.
The key to combating the negative impacts of sitting is simple in theory; sit less and move more. Yet research suggests it’s not enough to exercise for a half or even a full hour every day. Rather, regular movement throughout the day is necessary to stay healthy.
If you currently sit idle while at work, start making improvements today. Pay attention to when you’re sitting, and try to stand when you can. If you’re on a phone call at work, stand while you talk. Instead of sitting at your desk to brainstorm your next project, stand at a table or a whiteboard. Make your next meeting with a colleague a walking meeting, either inside or outside of the office. (Use the voice command function on your phone to take notes.) Try setting a timer at your desk and take a break to move around at least once every hour.
For people who work at a desk for long periods of time, standing desks are recommended. Special lifts are available to turn any desk into a standing desk, or you can make your own by putting your laptop on a few sturdy boxes. For those who want to maximize their movement and still get the job done, treadmill desks are available so you can walk as you work.
Even small movements make a difference. A quick after-dinner walk can become a fun habit for the whole family. And standing up to work on a project might just result in a more efficient, creative result.
Finding opportunities to move more during your day may feel challenging at first, but once you begin, you might see opportunities everywhere. Just like physics reminds us, bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Keep your body moving, and you’ll experience a range of health benefits.
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