We’ve all heard the warnings that ‘sitting is the new smoking’, and you might think they’re an exaggeration. But there’s now overwhelming evidence that sitting at a desk for hours on end can be really bad for our health. So much so that sitting is now being viewed by many health professionals as its own independent risk factor for poor health and disease – just like smoking and obesity.
Several studies suggest that if we sit all day, we undo many of the benefits of regular exercise. That’s because prolonged sitting slows, or even halts some of our body’s key metabolic activities and in turn can lead to weight gain and many diseases.
In fact, the Australian Department of Health is so concerned about the seven to 10 hours Australians spend sitting every day that it’s introduced guidelines which recommend exercise be seen as an activity you weave into your life throughout the day, not just at the gym.
It’s becoming pretty clear that focusing on getting 30 minutes of purposeful exercise each day is just not enough. We need a ‘whole day’ approach – taking every opportunity to move around and be active throughout the day.
The secret is to do things that contract most of the muscles in your body for a couple of minutes, at least every half hour:
Consider standing when answering the phone, or even holding ‘standing meetings’ with your colleagues. This restores many of the vital metabolic activities that slow down or stop when you sit.
Think squats, lunges and twists. Perform a couple of micro-exercises in small bursts to contract your muscles and get your heart pumping fresh oxygen to every cell, tissue and organ.
If you’ve got access to a stairwell, walk laps up and down for a few minutes – this is seriously good bang-for-your-buck activity!
Make the most of your lunch break with a brisk walk around the block. Studies show that walking fast is more beneficial than an ordinary walking pace.
Consider a height-adjustable stand-up desk and alternate between standing and sitting. Standing up all day will unnecessarily tire even the fittest people, which can lead to bad posture, so a combination of both is the best approach.