I work in an office all day. Granted there are weights in the corner and I have the freedom to set off for a bike ride whenever I want but that doesn’t change the fact that I have a sedentary job. Sitting down all day is one of the worst things we can do for our health, so take some action to combat against it now! I did an interview on The Voice of Islam radio station about this very subject so I’m going to share some of that wisdom here.
Firstly it’s important to understand why sitting is so bad for you.
The negative effects of sitting all day are huge. Be warned, if you read this you may never want to sit again.
Yep. Organ damage. A study showed that women who sit for more than 10 hours a day are more likely to develop heart disease than those who sit for less than five hours a day. Your body’s ability to respond to insulin is also affected by just one day of excess sitting, which leads your pancreas to produce increased amounts of insulin, and this may lead to diabetes.
Excess sitting may increase your risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. No one really knows why but it could be down to that excess insulin production.
Findings presented at the 2015 Inaugural Active Working Summit also found that sitting increases:
- Lung cancer by 54 percent
- Uterine cancer by 66 percent
- Colon cancer by 30 percent
Sitting compresses the food in your stomach and slows digestion. This can lead to constipation as well as heartburn, bloating and other digestive issues. If you struggle with any digestive issues just look at your posture, how much you’re sitting and for how long. Do some gentle exercise just after eating to avoid this.
Your brain function slows when your body is sedentary for too long. Your brain will get less fresh blood and oxygen, which are needed to trigger the release of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. If you feel shit at work, it’s probably because you’re sitting for too long.
Humans evolved to be active hunters not to sit at a desk all day. Your body isn’t supposed to be hunched over a keyboard for hours at a time and yet we still do it. This leads to back and neck problems that are very uncomfortable to correct.
Sitting puts more pressure on your spine than standing, combine this with the hunch of an office worker and it’s a recipe for disaster.
You’re literally wasting away at you desk and if you combine this with vending machine snacks, you’re going to be getting fatter while losing muscle. That’s not good for so many reasons! Firstly it’ll wreck your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight in the future and you’ll lose the strength you need to perform simple tasks. This is a big worry for the older population of office workers.
Your hips also suffer from prolonged sitting as your hip flexor muscles will become tight. This affects your range of motion and in the elderly, decreased hip mobility can lead to falls. Sitting also does nothing for your glutes (butt muscles). Weak glutes can affect stability and power.
Sitting for long periods of time, be it at a desk or in front of the TV, can cause deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins. It can also affect your bones and may contribute to osteoporosis.
But you can combat all of this…
If you have an office job you might consider jacking it all in to go live an active lifestyle on a farm. You don’t need to. There is a way to combat all the negative effects of sitting at a desk.
The most simple and effective way to beat all the scary problems outlined above is to stand up. Standing desks are now more affordable than ever for those of you who work from home. I use the Varidesk Soho to adjust my work height. I still sit for portions of the day but when I need to supercharge my brain or am feeling the effects of sitting on my butt all day in my lower back, I’ll stand. It’s a great piece of kit that simply sits on your desk, when you want to stand just grab the handles and pull upwards until you reach your desired height.
If you are an employee, your employer is required to make your work environment as healthy and ergonomic as possible. All you have to do is ask. If they put up a bit of a fight (they shouldn’t because they’re required to accommodate you by law, especially if you have back/neck problems), point them in the direction of Access to Work who might be able to help with costs.
Take a break
It’s easily done, you’ve got so much work on that you glue yourself to your desk all day. I do it. We all do. The trick is to give yourself breaks or walk around the office while you’re on the phone. Just get up off your arse every so often.
Improve your posture
Combat the negative effects of sitting all day by working on your posture. Yoga is a good one for this.
Work a stretching session (or more yoga) into your evening routine. Make sure to focus on lower back and those hip flexors too. Here are some good stretches to get your started.
Make sure you exercise regularly to maintain muscle mass, strengthen bones and keep your metabolism fired up. Not to mention the fact that exercise will help keep your heart healthy promote proper insulin production and combat against fat gain. Strength training is so important here so pick up some weights, your body will thank you for it.
Eating a diet full of good fats, lots of protein and plenty of fruit and vegetables can help protect you against heart disease and cancer. The only thing worse than sitting all day is sitting all day eating doughnuts and crisps while sipping on fizzy drinks full of sugar!
Add little movements into your day
Look for times when you could be walking around the office rather than sitting. Here are just a few ideas:
- Walk over to talk to a colleague rather than emailing
- Walk around the office while you’re on the phone (this is also a great sales technique because it makes you sound more alert and engaged)
- Drink lots of the water, not only is it good for you but you’ll be getting up to go to the loo more
- Stretch at your desk
- Go for a lunchtime walk
- Hold meetings standing up (this tends to make them shorter too)
If it seems like a lot of change how you work in one fell swoop, start incorporating some of this into your week and build from there. There’s no point in shortening your life just because sitting seems like the right thing to do at your desk. Don’t let a sedentary job kill you.