Never in human history have we been sitting too much, is ruining your health! As screen time has gone up, people have sat down… across the globe, many people have felt the painful effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. However, there are simple solutions to reduce the pain and health complications brought by long periods of sitting. Read on to find out.
“We’re sitting to death” might sound overdramatic or silly, but it wouldn’t be a false statement to make these days. Sitting too much is ruining your health!
A few hundred years ago, only a fraction of people had office jobs: most did manual labour such as farming, manufacturing and construction. Today, in the age of colossal technological change and evolving digital landscapes, more people work behind a desk and much fewer people’s jobs require physical activity. In 1960, one in two Americans had a physically demanding job, while in 2011 this ratio was one in five. Today, the average person sits for around 10 hours a day!
This trend is dangerous for our health, with more people experiencing obesity, migraines, scoliosis, anxiety, cancer and heart disease. It may surprise you that sitting – or physical inactivity – is the 4th leading cause of death in the world. In 2001, a shocking 2 million people died from conditions related to physical inactivity. Today, over 3 million people die every year from physical inactivity.
That means doing nothing is far more dangerous than doing something.
How do I protect my health from long periods of sitting?
Luckily, physical inactivity is a preventable cause of death – and it’s not difficult to minimise the risk to your health. Even if you have a chronic illness and don’t feel like getting up and doing things, remember that in many cases that is counterproductive: sitting all day will probably worsen your condition. Find a motivation buddy and try out some of these simple activities at work or at home:
- Incorporate movement into your normal sedentary activities or swap them for more active ones. Do the ironing while watching TV. Listen to an audiobook while going for a stroll. Instead of watching Netflix and binging pizza on date night, try cooking dinner together, bowling, dancing in your living room, or trying a new group yoga class.
- Active breaks every half hour are essential. If you know that you’re in for a long stint of sitting (e.g. on a car journey) make sure that you stop what you’re doing every half hour to walk or stroll around for a few minutes. Just 2-5 minutes of walking or stretching will help.
- If you’re at the office, take regular tea and water breaks. Get up to eat lunch and / or take a brisk lunchtime walk. Ask your employer for a standing desk, or a wireless headset so you can stand up and walk around when taking phone calls. Get into the habit of taking the stairs instead of the lift, and of standing up to chat with co-workers if they visit your cubicle. Lastly, try organising “walking meetings” around a nearby park instead of in a stuffy office room!
- There are some great apps out there to help you log and achieve your daily physical activity goals – download one today! Track your step-count, calorie-count and walking distances. Set activity reminders and limit your screen time. You could even organise a pedometer challenge with your colleagues or friends to raise money for charity. Another fun idea is to sign up to BorrowMyDoggy and take a neighbour’s dog out for a walk.
- Make your commute more active! Invest in a bike and start cycling. Wake up a bit earlier and commute on foot. If either of those is impossible, get off public transport a stop earlier, or stroll around the bus or rail station on the way into work. Similarly, park your car further away to force you to walk that extra bit. These small additions into your routine will make a world of difference.