How to Avoid a Sedentary Lifestyle and Get Moving Everyday

Offered By Fitnitiative

We are born to move.  We have literally evolved for the purpose of movement and our unrivalled ability to move has allowed us to thrive as a species.

However, in the modern world (especially the western world) we’re now in a place in our existence where we are barely challenged by our environment and excessive movement is no longer necessary for survival.

Sitting has taken over our daily lives, and its effects on your health and wellbeing may surprise you.

Mature male office worker sitting at desk

Stats Around Sitting

Although sitting feels pretty convenient at the time, the long-term effects are anything but.

A 2010 study1 found that those who spent 6 hours per day or more with low levels of physical activity have a 71% increase in mortality rate. This worrying finding is also reflected in the World Health Organisations (2010)2 ranking of physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality

Even more worrying, another study3 in 2011 showed that even when physical activity is added to the mix (4-7 hours of moderate to vigorous), mortality rate is still increased by 50% when participants also recorded sitting for 5-6 hours per day. Interestingly however, it may not take much to combat this as a university study4 showed that just 2 minutes of movement an hour has shown to decrease the mortality associated with sitting.

There are tonnes of studies out there delving into the effects of sitting/sedentary behaviour; and whilst their conclusions will vary, the trend is that sitting is clearly having an adverse effect on our health.

Sitting is labelled as the new smoking, and it’s not hard to see why.

Open plan office with colleagues working at desks

What Sitting Does to the Body

You’re probably sitting down reading this, so take a minute just to close your eyes and scan your body.

What do you feel?

Any particular areas that feel “tight” or “stiff”?

Do you feel any discomfort anywhere?

If you’re like the majority of deskbound workers, you may experience tightness, stiffness or pain in your hips, lower back, neck, shoulders, elbows and/or wrists.

 

Sitting Infographic

 

This list isn’t exclusive by the way, these are just the most common areas.

Depending on how long you’ve been a desk warrior, your body may have been feeling this way for some time or you may be yet to experience these issues.  Regardless, the seated position will eventually cause you some dysfunction if it goes unmanaged. Often times, it’s not the direct impact that sitting can have on your body, but the associative effects.

The more time you spend sitting the less time you’re spending being active (yes standing is more active than sitting).

Why’s That Important?

Well, our body burns a bunch of calories throughout the day by doing rudimentary things such as standing, walking, fidgeting, DIY, playing with the kids etc. These day-to-day calories are referred to as NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis)

The lower your NEAT, the less calories you burn day to day and the more likely you are to start piling on the pounds (if coupled with poor food choices and a calorie surplus).  Something as simple as spending more time standing will raise this NEAT and help to burn more calories throughout the day.

Male office worker using standing desk

We’re off to a good start already!

Another associative effect is the poor mechanics that we tend to sit with.  Next time you’re in an office environment (post pandemic of course) look around at your co-workers and observe the myriad of positions people are assuming.

Backs rounded, necks extended forwards, shoulders pulled in towards the body, sitting on one side of the body, feet tucked under the chair etc.  All of these positions are considered suboptimal for the body and will eventually cause some discomfort and/or pain.

Ever feel the need to change position whilst sitting?  There’s a reason for that and it’s because your body is telling you to move!

If you observed a co-worker the whole working day (which would be weird…) you’d most likely notice that they are continuously shifting in their seat and changing positions.

The ramifications of sitting aren’t always direct.

Sitting down with compromised mechanics will wear your body down over time, with the “breaking point” often happening during a pretty routine task.

Know someone who’s ever tweaked their back racking leaves or getting something from the top shelf? Or perhaps that’s you?

Female office worker stretching sore back

These tasks should be pretty low effort and low risk for our bio-machinery.  But the daily effects of sitting often build up over time, resulting in a pretty unspectacular event of injury.

What You Can Do about It

The remedy for sitting may sound simple (stop sitting so much right?), but in reality it’s not all that easy to do.  Sitting is a big part of our lives and it’s here to stay. So, we need to find ways to not only reduce the amount of sitting in our lives, but also manage the effects of sitting before they become an issue.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Let’s start with the obvious.

Reduce Optional Sitting

How often do you really NEED to sit?

Of course, office jobs are office jobs at the end of the day and everyone is sitting at some sort of desk.

However, what periods of the day can you identify as optional sitting?

Do you have to sit when you’re on the phone for example?

Are their team meetings that can be had standing up?

Do you do repetitive tasks each day? If so, which of these can you do standing?

Colleagues standing during a meeting

Reducing optional sitting is one of the best places to start to simply remove the amount of sitting in your life. In an ideal world, would you spend the majority of your day standing?  Yes, probably.  But the ideal world isn’t the real world, so it’s important to implement a new routine like you would with any other routine; slowly but surely.

Transitioning from a seated desk to a standing desk isn’t something you’re likely to do straight away.  Standing requires effort, and you’ll realise the stark difference between the two if you choose to quit sitting at work cold turkey.  Instead, start to introduce periods of standing during every hour that you work.

For example: Sit down for 50 minutes, stand for 10 minutes.

Simple right?

From here you can start to add another 5 minutes to standing each hour and reduce sitting by the same amount.  Once you’ve reach 30 minutes for each, you’ve eliminated half of your daily sitting at work.  Of course, you can keep going with this and it totally depends on what you’re doing at work.

If you have a 4-hour meeting, you’re probably not going to want to be the only one standing around the table.

Naturally, you will need access to a standing desk if you are aiming to use a computer whilst standing and have someone set this up to fit your physiology.

Male office worker standing at desk

Do 10-15 Minutes of Daily Body Maintenance

Just as you take your car for an MOT and a service (albeit once a year), you should be taking your body for routine maintenance each day.  How can you expect your body to move to its full extent, if you never actually move it.  Daily mobility practices are key to keeping your body supple and open up areas that sitting routines closes off.

Here are some of my top mobility exercises that you can do as part of your daily body maintenance.

If you’d like a guide to follow each day you can download this free 10-minute mobility programme here

Intermediate Mobility Flow

Monkey Squat

Thoracic Wall Rotations

Thoracic Wall Stretch

Lizard with Rotation

Every 30 Minutes That You Sit, Get Up and Move for 2 Minutes

Movement is life, movement doesn’t cost you and for the most part; movement is easy.  For every 30 minutes that you sit down during the day, get up and move around for 2 minutes.  This doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, it can just be a walk around the room, to the water cooler, to the kitchen, take the rubbish out etc.  It doesn’t matter.

The point here is movement and taking a break from the seated position.

Female colleagues standing and talking together

Doing 2 minutes every 30 mins is 4 minutes per hour.

Multiply that by the standard 8 hour working day and that’s 32 minutes of movement you wouldn’t otherwise have.  If you’re feeling particular active, then aim for 2 minutes every 20 minutes of sitting.  Total that up and you’ve now got 48 minutes of movement throughout the day.

Conclusion

Whilst there are other ways to address the amount of sitting in your life, the suggestions above are the simplest and provide you with the most bang for your buck.  Sitting is here to stay, but the negative ramifications of sitting don’t have to follow.

Give your body the movement it deserves and it will repay you.

 

References:

  1. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/172/4/419/85345
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK305049/
  3. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/744006
  4. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/05/01/403523463/two-minutes-of-walking-an-hour-boosts-health-but-its-no-panacea?t=1616764433755&t=1617875756004

 

Want to keep learning? Find more articles from Sam Lynch - Fitnitiative


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