That 9-to-5 job may be slowly killing you—and we’re not talking about stress, overtime or high blood pressure. We’re talking about sitting.
But what should you do if your job requires you to be a “computer jockey” for several hours a day? We’ve compiled some tips to help you avoid the problems associated with sitting for extended periods.
Is sitting really that bad?
Simply put: yes.
These factors include:
- High triglycerides (a type of fat found in blood.)
- Low HDL cholesterol. Remember, this is the “good” cholesterol
- A large waistline, a.k.a an “apple shape”
- High blood pressure
If you have at least two of these, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to see how a treatment plan will help you.
The verdict is in: more sitting = more problems
A study compared those who spent less than two hours a day in front of a screen (computer, television or video game) to those who spent more than four hours. The results are sobering.
Those who spent more time had a 125 percent higher risk of a cardiac event (such as chest pains or a heart attack). In addition, they also had a 50 percent risk of death from any health-related cause.
If you combine this with other negative health habits such as smoking, poor nutrition and lack of exercise, you’ve created a “perfect storm” for disaster.
How many hours a day do you spend sitting? Don’t forget to include your morning commute. It’s not just couch potatoes and cubicle office workers who spend a lot of time sitting.
If you think doing a few extra miles on the treadmill will help, think again—it doesn’t decrease your risk. The problem is sitting for extended periods of time. The science behind it is simple: standing, and even leisurely movement, helps your body break down fats and sugars. This process stalls when sitting.
Sit less, move more
While doing some extra push-ups after work won’t make a huge difference, there is something that will: moving more throughout the day. It’s not a matter of doing a thorough workout later, it’s a matter of making smaller changes during the day.
Here are some tips:
- Take stretching breaks.
- Walk around the office—consider talking to a coworker in person instead of emailing him or her.
- Stand whenever possible, such as when you’re speaking on the phone.
- Consider a standing desk. Some workstations are even outfitted with treadmills.
Good office stretches
Looking for something that will help you offset the monotony (and health problems) of constant sitting? We’ve got you covered. Following are some great stretches you can do in your office:
1. Stretch your upper arms
- Lift one arm and gently place it behind your head.
- The other hand should be placed on the bent elbow, stretching your shoulder and upper arm.
- Be sure to hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- When you’ve finished, do the same exercise with the other arm.
2. Stretch your lower back
- While sitting forward in your chair, bring one knee towards your chest.
- Using your hands, grab the back of your thigh, gently pulling it toward you.
- Be sure to keep your back straight during this exercise!
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- When finished, repeat with the other side.
3. Stretching your back and leg muscles
- This is similar to the “squat” exercises.
- Stand with your back against the wall.
- Keep your feet slightly apart.
- Slide down until you’re in a “half-sit”.
- Hold this for as long as you can, then slide back up.
- Repeat this stretch five times.
4. Flex your foot
- While you’re still sitting down, rotate each foot from the ankle.
- Rotate each foot six times: three times in one direction and then three times in the other.
The Mayo Clinic’s website features more wonderful and useful stretches for office workers.
Interrupt your sitting with moving
The working world has completely transformed – instead of working in outdoor professions, many office workers are in a cubicle sitting at a desk all day. Long-distance truckers spend a lot of time sitting in a cab, and throughout the country, more Americans are “sitting down on the job.” While sitting for long periods of time is detrimental to your health, thankfully, it is easy to reduce this risk by simply moving more throughout the day.
Try these exercises and see how they work for you.