We all know sitting all day is bad for us. Some research even suggests that sitting for prolonged periods increases your risk of death by 40% (source). What is more interesting is that the research tells us prolonged sitting is a “risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.”
What does that mean?
That means, regardless of your 3 yoga classes every week or your strenuous Crossfit workouts, if you are sitting on your butt for a good portion of your day you are still at risk of developing a life threatening disease.
People are sitting an average of 9.3 hours per day these days. We sleep for 7-9 hours. Take those hours of inactivity away and that leaves us about 6 hours of movement. Are you actually moving 6 hours a day? Standing, walking, exercising? I don’t know, that number still sounds high to me. Think about it. You wake up, get ready for work (1 hour) then sit and drive to work (30-60 min), then get to work and sit for 8 hours, maybe walk around the office a bit. Work day is over, you drive home (30-60 min), get home, maybe you cook, maybe you order in, then you sit in front of the TV until it is time to go to bed. Ok, maybe it’s not the TV, maybe you’re reading or checking Facebook. Still, you sit. Same position, over and over again, all day long.
All this sitting and inactivity can lead to a whole host of health problems – cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, among other terrible diseases. Plus it can make or keep you fat.
How much are you sitting? Feel free to hop on over to Katy Says.com and take her “How Much Do I Sit” Quiz. Katy says “The risk of death from things like CV disease is not actually associated with how much you move, but by how much you don’t move.”
So here’s the deal. Not only do we need to stop sitting, we need to start moving. Stand, squat, reach, pull, drag, stretch, use. your. body all day, every day. There are so many ways you can do this throughout your day. Here are some ideas to get you started at work, at home, and anywhere in between.
1. Stand up. Stand up every time the phone rings and have your conversation standing, or better yet, walking. Reading a book or blog post? Stand to read them. Suggest your next meeting at work is a standing meeting. See what happens. You could always ask for a standing desk too. If you don’t get one, rig one up. In my last job I used a few reams of paper to lift my keyboard and mouse off of the desk and just tilted my monitor. No one hunted me down for more paper.
2. Stand up, then stand on one leg. Straighten your left leg and lift your right foot off the ground by tilting your pelvis (left hip down, right hip up). Hold for 30 seconds then switch legs. Do this several times a day.
3. Go on a Walking Meeting. At your next work meeting that doesn’t require looking stuff up on the computer, suggest a walking meeting. My husband does this several times a week with his boss and his bosses boss. People dig it, but they probably won’t do it if you don’t ask. Fresh air drives fresh thinking and creativity. Other ways to walk more are obvious: park far away from the entrances to building, take a 10 minute break and walk around your building, or up and down the stairs. Better yet, take a 30 minute break and grab a walking buddy or your ear buds and listen to a cool podcast. Then walk around town, walk to the bank, the post office, the Farmers’ Market. It might take longer to run your errands, but then again, you’re saving time on all those gym visits.
4. Carry things. Be safe about it, but carry some heavy stuff without asking someone to help you. Like bags of mulch, kitty litter, reams of paper (if you’re at work), your kids, your significant other, get creative.
5. Drop and give me 20! Push ups are a great way to build upper body strength. Maybe you can’t do 20 push ups in a row now, but do what you can. If you’re watching TV, see how many you can do during commercial breaks. If you’re reading a book, do a few push ups at the end of each chapter. Get off the couch. If you’re at work, pop into a conference room, close the door and do some push ups. Or if you’re ballsy, just do them at your desk. Don’t be shy and weird about it, just do it.
6. Download WorkRave. This is an app for your desktop. You set intervals, duration of the break and how many exercises you want to do. Then this voluptuous little lady pops up and walks you through a few stretches.
7. Stretch your hands. You can do this one in the car! At a stop light, of course. Put your hand out straight in front of you, with the opposite hand stretch your fingers back towards your wrist with your fingers facing up, then do the same pointing your fingers down. Like so:
8. Squat. Squat going potty (yes, I said potty, I have a 4-year-old), squat while weeding in the garden, squat to clean up messes on the floor, just squat. At work if you’re checking some files in the filing cabinet, squat to check them out. Again, don’t be weird about it, people squat all over the world 100 times a day without a problem and no one thinks it’s weird. Be cool and squat like your ancestors did. Or this kid (not my kid):
9. Bend. Ditto to #8 but rather, bend at the waist to stretch your hamstrings. Tilt your pelvis for a maximum stretch.
10. Criss Cross Applesauce. What? Like I said, I have a 4-year-old. The point is, sit “Indian Style” in your chair or on the floor if you’re home watching TV. This position will help stretch the back of your thighs, back of the pelvis, inner thighs and at the same time externally rotate the hips (source). If you must sit, switch up how you sit to increase mobility in your hips.
11. Sit and Straighten your legs. Again, if you must sit, change-up how you are sitting – variety is key. From your seated position straighten your legs out in front of you. If you have a backing on your desk, try to get your feet flat on that surface and sit up straight in your chair. Bonus points if you can press your heels against that surface and pull your toes towards you. This is a great stretch for your hamstrings that are underutilized by sitting in your chair all day long.
We need to interrupt our sitting as much as we can throughout the day. Take every opportunity you can to move your body.
Check out this infographic to help drive home my point:
The infographic first appeared on medicalbillingandcoding.org.
Then, get up and move!