Sitting down is damaging more than just your waistline and that 30 minutes of exercise you do each day isn’t enough the combat these damaging effects. The only answer is to break up prolonged periods of sedentary behaviour with some movement. Sitting less, moving more and moving often is a simple message, yet few of us are actually putting it on our to-do list each day. Here I investigate the research and provide some tips to reduce your sedentary behaviour.
You don’t need to be a genius to workout sitting for extended periods of time is damaging to your waistline. Even if you include your daily
exercise session of a morning run, or a lunchtime gym session, or an evening game of touch, there’s still a good chance you sit stationary for the remainder of your day. As you sit there, your fat starts to accumulate in blood vessels, your muscles become less receptive to insulin, and your life expectancy shortens with every minute you are motionless. These results have been found in Australian, American and Canadian studies.
What is new however is the research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that looked at the effect commuting distance had on health and fitness. According to this American research, people who spent longer hours sitting in cars commuting to and from the office had lower aerobic fitness, higher blood pressure and weighed more than people who commuted shorter distances to work. People who commuted more than 24 kilometres each day were also less likely to meet the physical activity guidelines. When you think about it, this isn’t surprising as the commute distance adds extra time to an already long working day. By the time commuters arrive home, many are tired and hungry and I’m sure fitting in some physical activity is the last thing on their mind.
Getting our daily bout of exercise however, is not the only physical activity we should be considering when trying to keep fit and healthy – we need to look at how much time we spend standing, walking and moving around. Why? Because, even people who are considered “active” (they exercise for 30 minutes at least five days per week) aren’t necessarily doing enough physical activity to combat the damaging effects that sitting down – whether at a desk, in a meeting, in front of a television or commuting in a car – is having on their health. According to the research, prolonged unbroken periods of immobilisation reduces the ability of lipoproteins (substances that carry cholesterol in our blood) to efficiently manage healthy cholesterol levels, while also having detrimental effects on blood pressure levels, blood glucose levels and waistlines. What we all need to do, is to sit less, move more and move often.
Getting a little bit more
Get a little be more activity in your day by following these movement tips:
Stand up from your desk: Break up sitting at your desk by standing up every 30 minutes.This doesn’t mean you need to take large breaks to benefit either – just 1-2 minutes is all you need. According to Australian research published this year, workers who broke up sedentary behaviour every 20 minutes with two minutes either walking leisurely or jogging on a treadmill improved their blood sugar regulation compared to when they sat for seven hours straight.
Have a walking meeting: Meeting with one other person? Instead of talking over a coffee, go for a walk. Walking isn’t only great for the waistline, it also helps with learning and memory, which makes the session a very productive meeting.
Actively commute part (or all) of the way to work: Most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to walk or cycle to work, but if your do, make it a habit of actively commuting to work each day. If however, you need to drive or catch a bus or train into the office, get off a stop or two early and jog or walk the rest of the way into the office.
Get into the office earlier: Reduce your time commuting to work by heading in earlier and use the extra time to actively fit in some exercise. Hit the gym, join a group training session or go for a jog.
Offer to do the office coffee run: Instead of waiting for someone else to do the office coffee run, use the run as an opportunity to be more active in your day. .
Eat your lunch away from your desk: Lunchtime is a perfect opportunity to move, so create the rule of no food at your desk. Use the time to get up and stretch, as well as to eat more mindful.
Take the active approach: With everything you do, choose the active option. Take the stairs in and out of the office each day; walk to talk to a colleague instead of emailing; walk to the printer each time you print something; and stand up to read emails or reports.
Switch to a stand up desk: If you can, switch to a stand up desk or adjustable desk so that you have the option to work standing up or sitting down. Stand up for the first half of the day and sit down when you tire.
How do you reduce your sedentary time each day?