It’s not even all about exercise, there is increasing evidence that sitting still for too long is bad for you too.
Many of us have jobs that involve sitting at a desk all day, and many children spend all day sitting at school then sit at their computers or TV when they get home. There is increasing evidence that sitting still for too long is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and cancer. One study linked the amount of time people watch TV with shortened life-expectancy. In this study people who didn’t own a TV were compared with a group who watched an average of 6 hours a day. The non-TV owning group lived on average 4.8 years longer!
Simply reducing the amount of time you spend sitting will improve your health. Be aware of how long you have been sitting down. Make an effort to get up and walk about at least every hour, more often if you can. Even if you get 30 minutes of exercise a day you still need to be careful about how long you spend sitting down. You can find out more from the Get Britain Standing website.
If you work in an office try to get out for a walk at lunchtime, even 10 minutes will help. Think about whether you can walk and talk to a colleague instead of ringing or emailing them, or even ask your boss about a standing desk. Try standing up and walking around when you’re on the phone, or getting up from your desk for a walk around when you need to think, or use public transport rather than a car.
If you want to see the effect on you body of sitting for too long take a look at this great poster from the Washington Post (it’s a pdf document). To see what you can do to help have a look at these great postcards produced by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists. They are produced here as a pdf document. They offer advice on stretches and gentle exercises you can do if you sit at a desk all day, they are well worth using.
One manager we know makes a point of walking through the open plan office of the team he manages at least once a day. This way he is more approachable, his staff tell him little bits of information he wouldn’t otherwise hear about and he gets more exercise. Perfect!
Lots of us work in jobs where we don’t have the freedom to walk around. If that’s you try to make sure you get up and walk around in your breaks, and make an effort to do something active when you finish work, don’t end up sitting down all evening too.
More and more people are now working from home. There are many advantages, but it can lead to a very inactive lifestyle. If you work from home you have more freedom to find ways to sit less, but also less reason to move around. There are lots of techniques you can use :
- If you have an exercise bike why not make all your phone calls while on the bike ? (don’t bike too fast though – you don’t want to sound out of breath!)
- Try walking around when you are on the phone, or if you need to think something through. Or leave your phone out of reach so you have to get up to use it.
- Take a short walk at lunchtime – if you have letters to post why not walk to the post box. If you don’t have a dog, borrow a friend’s or neighbour’s dog!
- Set yourself a target – perhaps 10 minutes of exercise mid-afternoon when your concentration starts to go. This can be anything, no-one is looking after all, why not try dancing, hula-hooping or skipping, or even a 10 minute exercise video.
- Why not do some stretches or balance exercises while you are waiting for the kettle to boil – as long as no-one is around to see!
If you can’t fit activity into your working day it is even more important that you try to be active out of work. Gardening, DIY, cleaning or washing the car all help, and you have the satisfaction of admiring what you’ve achieved.
There is a really great YouTube video that looks at building activity into our everyday lives, called ‘Let’s make our day harder’. It’s only 4 minutes long, but watching it just might make you live longer.