Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sit Less, Live More

We all know that sitting for prolonged periods of time is not good for us.  It puts pressure on our spine, compresses the backs of our legs, and often means we are also slouching over a computer or into a couch.  Did you know, however, that just the act of sitting for hours on end, aside from ergonomic issues, increases your chances of having a heart attack by about 50%?

According to a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, lifestyles of 17,000 people were followed for 13 years, and it found that there was a 54% higher chance of dying from a heart attack for those who sat for long periods of the day.  

It didn’t make a difference if the people smoked or exercised; the results were still the same.

As soon as you sit down, your leg muscles literally stop firing, and calorie burning drops to 1 calorie per minute.  This means that during an eight-hour shift at work, you burn only 480 calories. 

It’s not just the sluggish metabolism that is affected, however, as sitting also causes reductions in enzyme activity, drops good cholesterol levels, and reduces insulin effectiveness, not to mention the flat butt!

In all seriousness though, if you work at a desk all day you might be feeling a little helpless right now, but there are things you can do!

First of all, any time you can stand up, do it.  Even if you literally just stand up and then sit right back down again.  Stand up when you are talking on the phone, march in place if you can, take frequent short breaks to walk the stairs, or just stretch and mobilize your body.
Even tapping your toes or doing calf raises at your desk while sitting will make a big difference if done regularly through the day.  We were always told not to fidget as children, but it is actually a great thing to do!  Move your torso in the chair, move your legs around, do shoulder circles, just keep moving.

If you have regular meetings at work, see if you can have everyone stand either during the meeting, or before and after.  Make it a company policy to add a little movement to your day.  It will actually boost productivity.

There are even little rubber discs (Sissel Sit-Fit) that you put on your office chair to help you engage muscles while in the seated position.  Another option, although more cumbersome is to use a physio ball to sit on, again your core muscles must be active to keep you upright on them while seated.

After work, please don’t go home and sit in front of the computer or television.  If you must watch TV, stand up and fold laundry, clean, sweep the floors, do gentle exercising, or march in place.  Use TV time as catch up time on chores, or exercise time. 

We all have to sit, but if there is an option to stand, or walk, or move, think of your health and take the opportunity!

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