We all heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”, which was first said by Dr. Levine. At the time when dr Levine said it, it sounded controversial. However, many health experts agreed with it. This is likely because according to research, numerous health conditions such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and back pain can be linked to too much sitting.
As dr. Joan Vernikos, former employee of NASA’s Life Science Divisions stated: “We weren’t designed to sit. The body is a perpetual motion machine.”. Excessive sitting is now considered to be a serious threat to our health and well-bing as it is blamed for obesity and over 30 different chronic diseases. It’s also believed to decrease healthcare costs.
How much sitting is too much?
Experts advise to walk or stand at least 2 to 4 hours a day to reduce the risks associated with sitting.
What happens to your body when you sit over 8h a day?
- Sitting down can accelerate the wear and tear on your spinal discs. Overtime, it can damage spinal structures leading to chronic pains and bad postures.
- It also weakens the cardiovascular system as blood circulation deteriorates and the tone of blood vessels lower.This can lead to the build-up of cholesterol plaques.
- Sitting down for extended periods of time can lead to development of varicose veins.
- Our bodies’ ability to burn calories drops by 90% when we’re sitting. I
- Another possible consequence of sitting for over 8h a day is osteoporosis. This is because the bones are challenged while you’re sitting down so they begin to weaken and become more fragile.
- Some even believe that sitting down for too long can accelerate aging of our DNA.
The good news is that all the above (and many other) consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle can be avoided.
How to combat sedentary lifestyle
Lifestyle change might sound like a challenge. However, rather than going for a 10k jog every morning and then going back to sitting, the lifestyle change is about making small adjustments to the way you execute your daily tasks. Below are some examples:
1. Incorporate more movements into your working routine. You could take your phone calls while standing or walking or set up reminders in your phone to make sure you get up every 30 min.
2. This habit of standing up every half an hour refers to those who tend to sit in the evening to watch TV or read a book.
3. Take the stairs instead of the lift. While it may seem like an insignificant change, climbing stairs is actually a vigorous-intensity physical activity.
4. Go for a walk. Even 15 min a day can make a difference.
5. Do your chores such as cooking while standing.
6. Take a lunchtime fitness class such as yoga or pilates.
How can employers help their staff to stay healthy in a sedentary world
1. Provide ergonomic workplace stations. The right chair and well-adjusted equipment are the basics. Since movement is a foundation of staying healthy, employers could consider allowing employees to take multiple short breaks throughout the day to stretch out.
2. You could also introduce workplace pedometer programs or challenges into your office to encourage your staff to move more throughout the day.
3. Bring workplace yoga classes into your office: your employees will be able to stretch out during their lunch break without having to leave the office.
Workplace wellness for remote workers
All the above strategies can also be implemented on a virtual level or in a remote way. For instance:
- you could arrange to have the right equipment delivered to the employees who need it;
- online workplace pedometer programs can inspire your employees to move regardless of where they are;
- bringing live yoga classes to allow your teams to attend together regardless of their location is yet another option.
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