The Mayo Clinic says 50 to 70 percent of us spend more than six hours a day sitting. Meanwhile, up to 35 percent of us spend more than four hours sitting at a screen.
Though we’re not 100 percent sure why, research shows this much sitting is harmful to our health. In fact, a study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys said if Americans cut their daily sitting time in half, their life expectancy would increase by two years.
For one, when you sit the largest muscles of your body are relaxed, meaning they take up less glucose from the blood, ultimately increasing your chance of Type 2 diabetes. There’s also a correlation between prolonged daily sitting and obesity.
Even if you’re not overweight with Type 2 diabetes, at the very least, sitting too much often results in pain, often stemming from your hip flexors that inevitably start to tighten up. Perpetually tight hip flexors then change the way you walk and can even lead to poor balance. It can also contribute to lower back and knee pain. Talk to anyone with back problems and they’ll tell you: Sitting is the worst!
While a certain amount of sitting might be inevitable to your job and your life, here are some tips to get you sitting less than is absolutely required:
5. Set deliberate stand breaks
Think about the way you feel when you get off a 5-hour flight after being crammed against a large human being and the window. Your body feels like someone beat it up, right?
If this is your regular life—sitting for hours without standing—consider setting a timer that signals you to stand upon and hour at minimum, stretch and walk around for five minutes to 10 minutes.
4. Standing-sitting desk combo
Standing desks, and even treadmill desks, are becoming more and more popular, as they get you standing, or even doing some light walking as you’re working at your computer.
Despite their popularity, many people say they can’t focus on certain computer tasks, for example, when they’re standing, let alone walking.
Consider having two options for work stations: One where you stand and one where you sit. At the very least, when you’re doing simpler, mindless tasks, like answering emails, maybe you can stand up, and when you need to sit for more challenging stuff on the brain, have a seat.
3. Stand up on the phone
If you have tried a standing desk and just can’t focus at your computer when you’re standing, then at the very least, commit to taking all your work calls standing up. Or create a more general habit of standing any time you’re on your phone.
2. Walking meetings
Often times work meetings are done over coffee, which of course means more sitting. Try a walking meeting instead if it’s practical for the meeting’s intension. Sometimes it’s easier to have difficult conversations as you’re walking next to each other, instead of staring at each other’s eyes the whole time.
1. Wander the airport
If you travel for work, whenever you get off the airplane on a layover, spend 20 minutes talking around the airport instead of immediately re-planting yourself in a seated position at a restaurant. If you have a long layover, go eat in another terminal of the airport, so you’re forced to walk there and then walk back again to catch your next flight.