When I moved to Sydney and started training clients I couldn’t believe how many people sit at a desk for 8 hours or more a day and the health problems that have occurred from it. I thought at first it was only a few people, but I started to notice more and more with all of my clients who were desk bound that they were in pain, restricted in their movement and they didn’t have energy.
I’ve been preaching this for over 4 years now to family and friends but a lot of them just ignored the fact of how bad sitting is. But recently there has been a lot more talk of how constant sitting is bad for you and finally it’s getting some awareness.
I recently finished reading the book ‘Get up!: Why your chair is killing you’, and I was astounded by the negative effects sitting has on us. Here are just some facts from the book:
- Sitting is worse than smoking
- Sitting kills more people than H.I.V
- 1 hour of exercise doesn’t offset the negative effects of sitting
- Sitting for more than three hours a day can cut two years off a person’s life expectancy,
- Sitting can make you depressed
- You lose muscle
- Your muscles become weaker
- You burn less calories
- Your muscles become shorter
- You become lazy
- You have an increased risk of a lot of diseases
- You can’t perform as well in the gym or sports
- You look terrible with the posture that you form
- You literally shave years off your life!
These are only some of the potential health problems that are caused when you’re sitting down all day. I’m going to talk in depth about a few more below and why you should stand up more just to give you a good idea.
You maintain muscle
When you are sitting instead of standing you’re not using many muscles. This is because it requires little muscular effort to keep you upright in a chair. The chairs we sit in are comfortable, they support our weight, support our backs and we normally don’t have to move from them much. All we have to do is move our hands to type, and maybe lean forward to grab a cup of coffee. Life seems easy right? But I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “use it or lose it”. Well, that is what is happening to your muscles when you sit down all day. You aren’t supporting your body yourself so you will actually start to lose some muscle, shorten others (did someone say tight neck?), start to slouch and hunch, round your shoulders forward, get tight hamstrings and more. I could go on and on about the things that happen when you sit all day. When you stand you are engaging all of the muscles in your body to help keep you upright, to keep your shoulders back and your posture straight and to put everything in alignment. I can also guarantee that you will have more flexibility, better posture and have a lot less pain if you stand up more.
You burn more calories
Another reason you should stand up more is that you burn more calories. The simple act of standing vs. sitting means you can burn between 20-50 calories more an hour which means in just 4 hours you could burn 80-200 calories more than you would sitting. That could then lead to 8 – 20 pounds of weight loss over the year! How’s that just for making a simple adjustment for a few hours a day? When you stand more you’re not going to just be standing either, we tend to move a lot more when we stand so you may even burn extra calories because of the extra movement you’re doing. Everything you can do to increase the amount of calories you burn during the day is going to help you towards your health.
You have less chance of health problems and diseases
A recent review of 43 studies analysing daily activity and cancer rates found that people who reported sitting for more hours of the day had a 24% greater risk of developing colon cancer, a 32% higher risk of endometrial cancer and a 21% higher risk of lung cancer—regardless of how much they exercised. Do you want more risk of disease? I don’t think so. When you’re standing and moving more you’re not compressing your organs, you allowing your body to do what it does naturally and you are reducing the chances of health problems.
It affects all other areas of your life
Studies have shown that when you stand more and improve your posture your mood changes, your confidence changes and your mind changes. You stand taller, you can move better and everything is just easier to do. Like I stated before, after sitting all day your body has started forming a pattern of short hamstrings, rounded shoulders etc. This can have a huge impact on your active life. If your body is used to sitting all day you could easily pull a hamstring when being active simply because it’s tight. You will lack using proper form when doing exercises because your range of motion is restricted. You could begin to form a hunchback because your shoulders are rounded. It takes you longer to warm up because you haven’t been moving, or worst of all you’ve become weaker! Do you really want sitting all day to splash over into all areas of your life?
Well, what do I do about it?
You’re probably thinking, well I can’t just stand everyday, my legs will be tired and people will think I’m a freak if I stand while I eat or have a coffee with friends. I completely understand why people don’t confidently stand everywhere however you don’t have to stand all the time. We just need to start making small changes, especially in the environments where we sit most, like work, watching T.V or at our computer. So where do we start with these changes? Luckily for you I’m all about making things simple and helping you take the first step.
The first step….
Are you ready? Stand up every 25 minutes. Set a timer that will remind you to get up. Every 25 minutes just stand up, stretch those legs, open up your shoulders, go for a quick walk around the office and get back to it. If you’re watching T.V stand up every ad break walk around the house until the show comes back on. It’s really not that hard to get started. Every time the phone rings at work you can stand up to answer it. Once you start getting momentum, you might think about the next option…
Stand up desk
Get yourself a stand up desk. You don’t have to go and buy something fancy or expensive, because believe me when I say they can be very pricey. However if you can afford it I suggest you invest in one because $400 now could add more years to your life, which means you will earn more than $400 for those years, so you will easily make that money back. If you don’t have the money to spend make something yourself, it’s not hard and heaps of people have done it. There’s actually a great post on pinterest here to give you some ideas http://www.pinterest.com/richarddudley/diy-standing-desk/.
Don’t try and change all at once
Don’t just go for trying to stand all day everyday because you will get tired, you will start to get sore and probably revert back to your old ways of sitting all day. Just make small changes at a time to get the best results. Start with walking around every 25 minutes, maybe set a goal for standing at your desk for 1 hour a day for a week. Then the next week do 1.5 or 2 and keep moving up. Start small and simple and then build up from there. The people who are most successful with their goals are the people who make small changes that are easy to manage.
What to do next
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Click here to see an article on how to do office stretches to help increase your flexibility.
Stay Strong. Live Long.