You work out, kale is your best friend, and if you drank more water you’d drown. You consider yourself a bit of a health nut. And, you are! Congratulations on making such great strides toward a long and healthy life.
So, why would anybody suggest that your work life may be undermining the hard work you do to keep fit? Gym rats take note – a solid daily workout cannot undo the impact of the sedentary office job many of us have. Those long hours we spend sitting in chairs and staring at computers can add up to some serious health consequences.
Research indicates that the more you sit, the shorter your life expectancy and the greater the likelihood you will experience one or more related health issues. Apparently this is true whether you exercise or not. Prolonged sitting is associated with ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, blood clots, and lower back pain. The rise in prevalence of these ailments corresponds to the increasingly sedentary lifestyle that we lead, both at work and at home.
Simply sitting isn’t the problem, it’s the extensive amount of time we spend doing it. The human body evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to be upright and active. Our nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors ran, jumped, carried, lifted – they were always moving (avoiding the saber-tooth tiger, perhaps, but moving nonetheless!) Later, small-scale farming – and all the corresponding farm chores – filled people’s days with physical activity. It used to be that if you wanted something, you had to build it, grow it, or make it yourself.
The Industrial Revolution significantly cut down the required physical workload for many people. The more recent rise of the “knowledge worker” has meant that millions of us now mostly sit at work. So, even if we get in a daily workout, it’s actually all the subtle but consistent decreases in overall activity levels that are undermining our health. We just move a lot less than we should.
So, What Do We Do?
- Stand or use a leaning seat at your desk for part of the day
- Follow Cornell University’s 20-8-2 rule: Break every 30 minutes up with 20 minutes of sitting, 8 minutes of standing, and 2 minutes of walking
- Walk or stand when you take a phone call
- Elevate your traditional desk, or pile up old telephone books to raise your computer (gotta use those phone books for something!)
- Hydrate – extra trips to the water cooler!