What does your average day look like? Do you get up, go about your morning routine and then drive to the office to start your 8-hour workday sitting at a desk (or simply walk over to your desk if you work from home). Regardless, if you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, as 80% of all jobs now do, you are living a sedentary lifestyle that could be taking years off of your life.
If you sit in a chair or on a couch for more than 6 hours a day, your risk of developing heart disease has increased by 64 percent. You are more likely to become obese due to lack of fat-burning activity and experience circulation issues such as swollen ankles, Deep Vein Thrombosis or other health problems like diabetes. That is just the tip of the iceberg, however. Here are a few other things that happen to your body when you sit all day.
What sitting all day does to your body
There is a reason that obesity is connected to inactivity. Even if you eat an incredibly healthy, whole foods diet and don’t consume an excessive amount of calories, sitting for extended periods without getting up and moving has been linked to decreased lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity. Simply put, LPL activity is responsible for the body’s ability to burn fat. When this process is prevented, the body begins to burn carbohydrates instead. This can lead to weight gain and obesity problems.
The average person is unable to maintain proper posture after sitting at a desk for just 3 minutes. Unless you are always aware of your posture, it is inevitable that your shoulders start to slump and your neck hunches over. Over time, this poor posture can lead to severe chronic pain in the neck, back, hips, shoulders, and even legs. Chronic joint and back pain can be debilitating and is often a lifelong struggle.
As mentioned above, prolonged periods of sitting can cause circulation issues that often precede serious cardiovascular problems such as elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and heart disease. This is because the body is burning less fat, causing eventual buildup and blocked arteries in the heart.
How to counteract the effects of a sedentary life
Unless you decide to quit your job and alter your career path to a field that doesn’t require you to remain sedentary for an extended amount of time, sitting at your desk for hours every day is inevitable. However, there are a few simple ways you can incorporate activity into your day, without performing a serious workout every hour.
But wait, you say. I exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, doesn’t that counteract the effects of a desk job? Actually, no. If the only activity you have in a day is a long walk or a strength training exercise routine, you are still at risk. That is in no way saying that you should not exercise vigorously for at least half an hour each day, as that is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle. However, this alone will not counteract the effects of sitting. The idea is to break up periods of sitting with brief spurts of movement that get your blood flowing and force your muscles to work.
A good rule of thumb is to get up at least every hour and do something physical for five minutes. Studies have shown that even brief breaks in sedentary time can prevent many of the issues mentioned above.
Tips and tricks to get you moving:
Set an alarm or use the reminders app on your phone: When you get wrapped up in work or a weekend binge of your favorite tv show, it can be hard to keep physical activity in mind. Force yourself to remember by setting an alarm on your phone.
Use a standing desk: If you work from home or have the opportunity to change the style of your desk, consider investing in a standing or convertible desk. This will make it easier to move around and keep the blood flowing.
Park at the back of the parking lot: This will help you reach your goal of 10,000 steps per day.
Drink more water while you are sitting to encourage you to use the bathroom more: Yes, even getting up to use the bathroom can make a difference! Plus, you are drinking more water which is always a good idea.