Our modern workday is vastly different from past generations. Technology has made us more efficient in the workplace. However, these advances come with serious health concerns.
Research has linked a sedentary lifestyle with elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and even premature death, says Jennifer Daley, exercise specialist with Saint Francis Health System. “Prolonged sitting can also lead to back aches, headaches and restlessness, and we can even become lethargic.”
Karen Massey, community wellness dietitian with Integris Health System, confirms sitting for long periods of time is linked to a number of health risks and adds an increased risk of blood clots to the list.
“When we sit almost motionless for extended periods of time, the body recognizes that there’s no need to keep basal metabolic rate in full-throttle,” explains Massey. “Our bodies go into a ‘sleep’ mode, turning off extra calorie-burning that isn’t needed while not in active use.”
Even regular gym-goers are at risk.
“People who regularly run or work out at a gym often figure that doing so offsets the fact that they sit the rest of the day,” says Massey. “The risk of sitting differs from the benefits of exercise, a difficult concept to embrace especially for those who regularly engage in exercise.”
Sedentary does not just mean someone who does not exercise regularly, but means someone who is sitting for the majority of their day, says Daley.
“It’s not just about having an exercise routine or being a regular exerciser but being active all day,” says Daley. “Ultimately, we must compare the time we spend sitting versus the time we spend standing and even the amount of time we spend exercising.”
But don’t stop your exercise routine. It’s important. Everyone needs both, Daley and Massey agree.
While prolonged sitting has serious health consequences, the solution is simple: move.
“You don’t have to be all that sophisticated,” says Massey. “Set your print cue to print at a location which forces you to walk to retrieve your copy. Don’t use the closest bathroom – walk to a farther one.”
“Get up and walk to talk to a co-worker instead of calling them on the phone or sending them an email, “suggests Daley. “Keep some small hand weights or bottles of water at your desk that you can pick up and perform different arm exercises while you are reading e-mails, talking on the phone or listening to a webinar.”
The essential goal is to wake up the circuitry, keep blood flowing and stimulate the muscles into active mode, encourages Massey.
“Make a personal goal to take a walk break, stretch break or just a wiggle break every 60-90 minutes,” advises Massey.
Daley recommends standing up every 30 minutes to prevent stiffness.
“Stand while you are talking on the phone,” offers Daley. “The simple act of standing can burn as many as 50 more calories per hour.”
Don’t feel guilty about taking time for these much-needed breaks.
“Understand that taking time out for yourself is not selfish; you are making yourself a better person and a better employee,” says Daley.