Business of Well-being

Stand Up For Your Health - Sitting Is the New Smoking!

OK, the word is out! Researchers and wellness experts continue to note that sitting for prolonged, uninterrupted periods of time is associated with an increased risk of multiple adverse health conditions. And these risks can be on a par with those attributed to smoking. Examples include more immediate effects such as weight gain, high blood pressure and obesity to chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and all-cause mortality. And that's not all. Here are some other negative impacts of prolonged sitting:

  • Atrophy of large leg and gluteal muscles
  • Muscle discomfort in neck and shoulders
  • Hip and spinal problems
  • Development of varicose veins
  • Potential increase in anxiety and depression
  • Thrombosis in the legs
  • Impaired memory and focus

Moreover, contrary to what you might suspect, obtaining the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity does not lessen the risks caused by sitting. With the increased use of technology (e.g., television viewing, computer use, travel time) and the decrease in physical labor, we all have to make an effort to stand up and get moving. Global studies show we sit for up to 15 hours a day, on average.

Yet sustained sitting time is recommended to be limited to a maximum of two hours per day, with interruptions every 30 minutes. Short breaks with light intensity activity, as a part of your daily routine, have been found to be beneficial in reducing adverse outcomes related to sitting time.Within the workplace, promote these activities to your employees to increase their "up" time, as well as for your own well-being:

  • Switch from sitting to standing for brief periods
  • Engage in simple stretches
  • Take short walks throughout the day, even if it's just to refill your water glass
  • Walk the stairs instead of taking elevators
  • Go over to a colleague's office rather than emailing
  • Find a nice spot outside to eat lunch and take a short walk
  • Consider meetings on the go with a stroll outside
  • Organize a walking club

If you sit at a computer most of your day, you may want to consider investing in a sit-stand workstation and offering them as an option to your employees, as standing can be just as beneficial as walking, improving posture and toning muscles. Many of these kinds of workstations are height-adjustable to adapt to the kind of work you're doing throughout the day.

By engaging in light intensity activities and breaking up sitting time, you will be reducing the adverse health effects associated with sedentary behavior, along with ramping up metabolic rates, caloric burn, and blood flow. This increased non-sitting time will also boost focus, energy, and productivity. So get up out of your seat and stand up for your overall health!

About the Author

Danielle Keenan provides consulting to Keenan clients to design, implement and evaluate best-practice population health management programs. She holds a B.A. degree in Psychology from California State University - Long Beach and an M.P.H. degree in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Additionally, she has earned the WELCOA Worksite Wellness Certification, is a continuing WELCOA Faculty Member, and was recognized as one of WELCOA's Top 50 Health Promotion Professionals.

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