Do you have a twelve-a-day habit? We’re talking seated hours, not cigarettes, although recent studies indicate that sitting too much and moving too little can be just as bad for your health.
The Victorian Government’s Better Health website suggests that sitting is the new smoking, and plenty of studies are backing up the claim. According to government stats, more than 60% of us do less than the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise.
But it’s not just structured exercise we’re lacking.
Not so long ago, office workers communicated by walking to colleagues’ desks. Information was shared by hand-delivered memos (remember those?) and we physically attended meetings.
We went outside to buy lunch and – horrors – may have even eaten it outside!
Today’s world is one of remote connectivity. We email or instant message colleagues and attend meetings via video conferencing.
A new crop of office catering companies accept lunch orders via website or app and deliver it by courier directly to our desks – we don’t even have to get off our chairs for food!
As a population, we are moving less. We’re buying online where we used to visit shopping centres. We, who once walked or cycled to school, now drive our kids; and they spend hours chatting with friends online instead of physically meeting up with them.
Technology has aided and abetted us in becoming more sedentary than ever before – to the detriment of our health and well-being.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), excessive sitting is putting us at risk of all manner of diseases, the most common being obesity and Diabetes Type 2.
The NHS quotes sources from Melbourne’s Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute claiming that too much sitting is thought to slow the metabolism. This in turn affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and metabolise fat.
Other consequences may include conditions like varicose veins, sciatica, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or more sinister ailments like heart disease and cancer.
So, if too much sitting is the problem, is standing the solution?
Well, yes and no.
Adjustable workstations enabling office workers to stand at their desks are a step in the right direction, but standing alone is not a panacea. Standing for hours can affect posture, and lead to neck, back and hip problems.
Movement is the key. Too busy to exercise, you cry? Fitting more movement into daily life isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Taking the stairs instead of the lift.
Visiting colleagues’ desks.
Pacing while on the phone.
Setting an hourly timer reminding you to get up and walk.
Walking with the kids to school.
Organising walking meetings at work – it’s a thing, Google it!
Our bodies are designed for movement. Lack of movement causes muscles and bones to weaken and ultimately our health and mental well-being can suffer.
It’s like leaving a car idle in a garage for months. You can replace a car, but you can’t replace your body – technology hasn’t gone that far yet – so get up and move it!
www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au - The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking (last updated August 2016)
www.nhs.uk - Why we should sit less (last updated October 2016)