Americans today spend more time sitting than ever before. The vast majority of us work in offices, sitting at desks, with our eyes on the computer, rarely getting up to take a break let alone to engage in rigorous physical activity. When we leave the office, many times it’s only to return to a sitting position once again on the couch or at the dinner table.
The average American spends 9.3 hours per day sitting down. That’s more time than we spend on any other activity, including sleep. Doctors have long known that lack of physical activity is to blame for a host of health problems, including increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity. But now, some are going so far as to call sitting the epidemic of our generation—equal to what smoking cigarettes was ten or twenty years ago.
Doctors agree we should spend less time sitting and far more time moving. In recent years, new innovations like standing desks have gained in popularity, and for good reason. After just an hour sitting, our body’s production of fat-burning enzymes drops by up to 90%. Sitting for long periods of time slows down our metabolism, lowering the level of good cholesterol in our blood.
What’s more, doctors are now starting to agree that time spent sitting actually chips away at the benefits of exercise. Think of it this way: when you exercise, your body burns fat and builds muscle. Muscle burns more calories even while resting, because your body’s cells get into the habit of functioning in a way that supports your heightened level of physical activity.
When you aren’t exercising, the opposite is true. Your cells get into the habit of behaving in a way that supports your sedentary lifestyle, making it increasingly difficult to get off the couch and get moving. In short, exercise breeds more exercise. Sitting tends to breed more sitting.
So what are we Americans to do in today’s highly-connected digital world? We can’t up and leave our office jobs or simply refuse to attend when the boss calls a long conference room meeting. But doctors say we can make small changes that dramatically impact our health. It’s just like the simple law of physics: an object in motion tends to stay in motion.
If you’re feeling ambitious and work in an environment where it would be considered appropriate, you might try switching to a standing desk or swapping an exercise ball out for a chair. To learn more about standing desks, visit our ergonomic solutions http://workplace-partner.com/ergonomics. Too big of a change? Try getting on your feet every time the phone rings, and taking each call standing up. Set your phone alarm to go off on the hour, and get up for a three-to-five minute walk to the water cooler and back.
Have an hour lunch break? Spend the first 30 minutes taking a walk around your office park or walking up and down a few flights of stairs. Then, eat a light sandwich you brown-bagged instead of using up your full hour to run out and pick something up.
Doctors say the only thing that will save us from this epidemic is changing what’s considered “normal”. Today’s teens are smoking cigarettes in lower numbers than ever before. Maybe, if we work together toward shifting the “sitting paradigm”, ten years from now they’ll be sitting less than ever before as well!