dangers of sitting

I recently came across a title that almost (and should have) made me jump out of my seat! “Why Sitting is the New Smoking.” And because I have a personal connection with the warning inside this article, I immediately clicked and read. And what I found was intensely disturbing….

Why – you might be thinking – would I be so concerned with this idea? Because I’m a writer. I sit at work. All day long. In front of the computer. Writing. And because of this, the article struck a nerve with me. Hard. So hard, in fact, that here I am writing a piece about it.

I’ve always been quite conscious about living a healthy lifestyle – to a point. (I do still love my weekly pizza.) But I keep active. I don’t smoke. Rarely drink. Exercise when I can etc. But I do sit. And I sit for long periods of time. Anyone who’s a writer, or has a similar sitting-all-day tech job, can relate. Once I get going on a piece – with the research, writing and editing – I just go. And if I’m motivated and progressing nicely, I could literally sit for hours – working on the same piece.

Which might not sound like a big deal to most of us, but here’s why it actually is:

sitting all day who_is_at_risk_

Symptoms of Being a Sitting Duck

I started noticing little changes here and there after I began the career change to working on the computer all day long. But after a few months the symptoms seemed to accelerate. I started having headaches (which I’ve hardly ever had in my life), shoulder and neck pains, extreme fatigue (no matter how much coffee I guzzled) and the ever-so-popular [but dreaded] weight gain.

Knowing that it isn’t GREAT to be sitting at a desk all day is one thing, but reading about long-term effects and seeing my exact symptoms linked up with specific diseases put me into a bit of panic mode. Enough to want to do something about it.

And what does every writer do first? Research. So that’s exactly what I did (along with taking breaks more often). Here’s what I learned…

Take a Stand

I wanted to know exactly what happens to my body the minute I sit down, and came across this great infographic on the subject:

sitting all day how_sitting_affects_the_body

Immediately After Sitting – As you can see, electrical activity in the leg muscles shut off and your calorie-burning rate slows down to about 1 per minute. Your enzymes also drop by 90%, which explains the weight gain.

After 2 Hours of Sitting – If you haven’t moved after two hours, your good cholesterol drops a whopping 20%.

After 24 Hours of Sitting – If you are extreme and haven’t moved in a day – insulin effectiveness drops 24% and the risk of diabetes rises.

After 2 Weeks of Sitting More than 6 Hours a Day – Your muscles aren’t taking in fat and your blood sugar levels go up. Climbing stairs and even walking will become more difficult.

After 1 Year of Sitting More than 6 Hours a Day – At this point, long-term effects will begin to manifest with weight gain and high cholesterol. And even more alarming for us women, we can lose up to 1% of bone mass a year.

I think you get the picture… and it’s not a pretty one.

Get Up, Instead of Sitting All Day!

You’ve now seen the insanely scary dangers that sitting all day inflicts on your life. I, for one, have been completely motivated to get up and not allow myself to fall prey to this sitting disease. So what can we do? Here are 5 practical ways of avoiding the slow and painful death by desk.

  1. Stand Up! up_and_aboutThis simple advice couldn’t be more true. The American Diabetes Association suggests taking a break every hour. Personally, I try to stand up at least every 30 minutes, but sometimes time has a way of getting away from me. Make a conscious effort to stand up and stretch or walk around once an hour.
  2. Sit Correctly. Because we are sitting all day, it’s extremely important that we’re sitting the right way. Sitting improperly can do as much damage to your body as sitting all day long. Make sure you are sitting straight at a 90 degree angle, and not leaning forward or backward.
  3. Try the 5-Minute Workout.sitting all day 5_minutes_workout Matt McWilliams came up with a simple 5-minute workout to help combat “sitting yourself to death”. His guide contains 15 quick exercises to jumpstart your busy day. The basic routine contains reps for your legs, arms, back and hips. We’ve all got 5 minutes to spare, and these easy-to-do exercises will get your heart racing and send a little jolt to your muscles.
  4. Drink Lots of Water. Good ol’ H2O. Drinking water is an essential key to keeping your body clean, healthy and working properly. WebMD suggests drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily, to remain hydrated. It’s easy to forget to drink water while you’re sitting all day at your desk, and you might even think you don’t really need it. (You’re not really doing anything physical, after all… right?) But here’s a simple formula that I’ve discovered.

Drinking Water = Bathroom Breaks = Getting off Your Bum = Staying Healthier

Try it! You’ll be amazing at what drinking water can do for you!

  1. Daydream. Aka: Take a Break. The Power of Daydreaming at Work has so often been overlooked as laziness or counterproductive, but many studies have proven that daydreaming can actually have the opposite effect on your work day. With an increase in brain stimulation, daydreaming can enhance brain activity and produce more creativity. So don’t be afraid to take a short break and let your brain wander.

sitting all day brain

If you’re like me, and sitting all day is a part of your work week, please take these warnings and dangers seriously. Find a way to counteract sitting all day by using these 5 examples of sitting less. If you want to become a more effective employee, and a healthier person, it’s time to start making changes in your daily routines. Trust me… it will help you work and feel better!