Sitting right now? I am, too. But let’s both make a promise to each other: Once we’re done with this article, we’ll get up… our life might depend on it.
Hyperbole? Hardly. At this point, it’s safe to assume that most of us realize that prolonged sitting isn’t very good for us. Aside from the obvious manifestations of poor health – such a neck, back, and hip pain – sitting for too long has been linked with breast, colon, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. It also may raise your risk for heart disease, encourage muscle degeneration, soften your bones, and adversely affect circulation, too.
At the risk of making this article entirely hyperlinked, I think you’ve gotten the point: These are serious scenarios that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “I do sit a lot, but I also work out really hard several times a week… so I’m okay.” Well, new research now shows that even if you’re a physically active person – and work out vigorously – you still can’t counter the negative consequences of prolonged sitting. Uh-huh, you heard me: Running five miles this morning does not make sitting from 9-5 with no breaks "okay."
In short, there’s no cheating nature. And why should we try to, when getting up and moving around regularly feels so good? But I understand that in the middle of a busy office day, it’s hard to say “time out” and take a walk – even if it’s all your body wants to do. So here some of my favorite, office-friendly ways to combat the adverse effects of sitting:
- Download an app: I recently downloaded Stand Up!, a handy little app that pings you at intervals as a reminder to stand up. You can customize your interval length as well as your reminder time period; I selected every thirty minutes, Monday-Friday, from 9-5. I was shocked by just how quickly thirty minutes goes by!
- Take walking calls and meetings: Yes, some meetings need to happen in boardrooms or in front of computers. But that casual coffee date or informal check-in can easily be taken on the go. If you’re a manager, set a good example and ask your colleague to take a fifteen-minute walk with you in lieu of your usual sit-down.
- Do a water challenge: Challenge yourself to drink ten 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day. Not only will you have to continually get up and refill your water, you’ll need to head to the bathroom, too… unless you’re a camel. Added bonus: Drinking water is great for you, so you’re kind of winning on all fronts.
- S-T-R-E-T-C-H: A trainer recently told me that I have very, very tight hips – something he sees frequently in people with desk jobs who are sitting at length. He recommended that I make a concentrated effort to stretch them regularly, something that I’ve been doing at least twice throughout the day. For those of you who can’t get up and lie on your back at work and get your bridge on, I highly recommend doing hip flexor stretches in the morning and evening at home. Here are some great ones.
- Stand, don't sit: Progressive offices everywhere are adopting standing desks, which are boons for those of you who want get your work done without missing a beat. Although fancy standing desk options exist, I personally prefer stacking books under my computer and DIY-ing. Try twenty minutes standing and ten minutes sitting, alternating off-and-on all day. It’s pretty hard!
- Swap your chair: An exercise ball is a great choice here, as it forces you to really engage your core and back muscles. To do so, sit with your feet flat on the ground, having them support about a fourth of your total weight. The rest is all you!