We sit on our commutes. We sit at our work (or our school). We sit some more on our commute home. And then we sit and watch hours of television. All of this sitting is killing you and wreaks havoc on the human body. If you sit for more than 6 hours per day you are 64% more likely to die from heart disease. Sadly, our culture has had an ever-increasing amount of sedentary behavior. More people work at desk jobs in offices than ever before. It takes a concerted effort to keep active both at work (or school) and at home. Thankfully, with some light exercise (think: walking) a few times during your day you can undo most of the effects of sitting and work on reversing your diabetes through weight loss.
HOW SITTING IS KILLING YOU
Our bodies are not designed for extended periods of sitting, even with moderate exercise. Until recently, our civilization has been primarily based on agriculture. Farming without modern machinery is a very active task requiring a taxing amount of physical labor throughout the day. In addition to the bending over, lifting, squatting and the digging required by manual farming our bodies are also designed for walking and running. The early days of hunting most likely involved running after injured or slow animals. Our ancestors did not get long spells of time on their keisters. The concept of commuting and working at a desk are two modern byproducts from the industrial revolution.
Okay, so our bodies are not that of sloths or hibernating bears, by design, but exactly what is so bad about sitting all day at work? When you first sit down the body’s position prevents full electrical activity in the legs. Your metabolism also slows down its calorie burning to a mere 1 calorie per minute, quite possibly the lowest rate of your entire day. Sitting for prolonged periods of time will even drop the effectiveness of your insulin and raise your risk of getting, or maintaining, Type 2 Diabetes. Read more about the pitfalls of sitting on the infographic below.
TAKE A STAND AGAINST SITTING!
As someone important in my childhood once told me, “knowing is half the battle”. Adding in some activity to your day will not only help reduce the harmful effects of sitting but also aid in your battle to reverse your diabetes (or prediabetes).
If you live close enough to work, consider walking or biking instead of driving. This daily activity adds up quickly to get in more activity without having to make a planned effort to drag yourself to the gym. For those out of shape, it’s very important to not give up before getting started. If your commute is easy one way and harder the other, try commuting the easy way leg first then adding in the harder other leg once you can. For example, my office is down a large hill which makes walking or biking to work easy. On the way home, I catch the bus up the hill or grab a ride from a coworker to the top of the hill. There’s a few times in life when it’s okay to half-ass it to start building a habit.
Workdays can get busy and it can be a challenge to stay active during the day. After spending 15+ years in the office world myself, I find myself struggling as well. Some tricks I have fostered to keep my blood flowing during the day are these:
- Take regular walks. Use your smart phone or email calendar to put in a reminder or alarm. I stand at least every hour and/or try to go outside for a 15 minute walk every 1.5 hours. Consider using a pedometer to track your paces throughout the day.
- Walk after lunch. Your blood sugar levels rise after eating. This is one of the best times to take a light walk for 15-30 minutes. Burning the sugar in your bloodstream will prevent your liver from converting it into body fat for use later. Come ready for inclement weather and only stay inside if there’s a weather alert.
- Use a standing desk. The advantages are many and the setup is easy. A bonus of using a standing desk is that you will burn more calories compared to sitting.
- Always use the stairs. We have a few elevators in our 3-story building, but the stairs are the only thing I let myself use. The exception is when you’re injured or carrying something heavy. Stairs are great exercise, too; look below to see the difference in calorie burning.
- Use the farthest away bathroom. We all take many trips to the bathroom throughout the day, so why not add some more steps to it. Figure out the bathroom that requires the most steps and pretend the others do not exist.
- If you drive, park far away. This hack is similar to my bathroom trick above. Find the spot in the parking lot furthest away from the entrance. These small amounts of steps will add up over time.
BEHOLD, THE STANDING DESK
The raised desk has gained in popularity the past few years and with good reason – it works! It’s easy once you find one within your budget that meets your ergonomic needs. It never hurts to discuss this with your facility folks or your boss, whatever the case might be. I was fortunate enough to have one customized to the height that I needed due to my chronic back problems. The first step is to determine your desk height from this handy ergonomic calculator.
There’s two routes to take on this gravity defying endeavor – DIY or store-bought. I’ve seen several coworkers just raise their monitor up on boxes or crates. It’s effective but not the most presentable. Some easier and appearance conscious options are to hack some furniture parts together from Ikea. This worked for me in my home office. I just used a desk that was intended for sitting and swapped the desk for the higher up shelf to my desired height. Here’s a cheaper version of an Ikea hacked solution.
Store bought versions are preferable when you’re at a formal workplace or do not want the hassle of figuring out Ikea cartoon instructions. Ergotron makes some popular models in many different configurations. UpLift makes a slick electronically controlled desk, but it is not cheap. It is the newer version of desks that are being installed in our office space. They do dual duty since they can be lowered to alternate between sitting and standing. And, of course, there are some options on Amazon that arrive with free shipping. The Safco Stand Up workstation is good for those with a desktop or printer. It’s adjustable in height, too. A sleek alternative for those with laptops is the iCraze Adjustable Stand. It’s vented to prevent overheating and works nicely in bed or on top of any table or desk. If the floor under your standing desk is not soft, consider buying a nice standing mat. It does increase your stand time significantly.
SHARING IS CARING
Has this article helped you learn more about how sitting is killing you? If you enjoyed this article, others may also find it useful. If we’ve earned it, can we kindly ask that you share this article online or through email? A referral is the greatest compliment a customer can give a business and we thank you for helping us spread the good word to the millions who suffer from this troubling disease.
Photos by Fotolia.