Whetheryou are a student or a professional, chances are you have a life that requires a lot of sitting. Whether it be listening to lectures for 8 hours a day or typing at a computer until you finish that important project, studies have shown that the average American sits at a desk for about 9-10 hours a day!
So let’s break that down:
If we assume the average American is also working 5 days a week for roughly 9 hours for about 30 years, that adds up to 492,750 hours of sitting. And that doesn’t even include the time we sit on our drive to work, school or while we binge watch our favorite show!
How sitting comfortable for too long affects you over time?
Sitting in itself isn’t necessarily a bad habit, but sitting a lot is detrimental. When you sit too often in your day-to-day life, you could experience an early death (due to cardiovascular diseases and even cancer), posture problems and issues in your back and shoulders, decreased hip flexibility, poor blood circulation and even organ problems 1!
Research has proven that sitting for long periods can even lead to obesity and metabolism issues. This can be a vicious cycle, since the heavier and more unhealthy you are can make it harder and harder to try to get up and move.
One recent study compared adults who actively spent less than two hours a day in front of a screen with those who habitually spent more than four hours a day sitting. Those with greater screen time had an increased risk of death (by any of the aforementioned causes) by 50%, and a 125% increased risk of heart attack!
Why are we so used to sitting?
With so much research proving sitting is a quiet killer, it seems surprising that so many of us are guilty of indulging in hours and hours of it. But it can be challenging to avoid sitting for long periods. Whether working or studying, sitting happens. And when you come home from a long day at school or work, you can feel mentally drained, leading you to more hours of down time while you “relax” with a tv show.
Habits like sitting down can also be hard to break when you’re surrounded by people doing the exact same thing. After all, when you go into work and sit at your desk, you’re most likely surrounded by other people also sitting at their desks. So it may not occur to you that this is a negative behavior. And if you tend to be a little shy, the last thing you may feel inspired to do is to stand up while everyone around you is sitting down.
“But standing makes me tired!”
Unfortunatley, many of us try to avoid standing for any extended amount of time because it wears us out. But really it’s just that we aren’t as used to it as we are sitting or lying down. It’s easy to take the easy way and sit in a chair; we are supported and don’t have to rely on our own bodies to support us. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous mindset to indulge in, as too much of anything can be unhealthy.
Don’t let yourself get too comfortable with your chair
As is the case with breaking any bad habit, the first step is to accept that you’re doing something unhealthy. Thankfully, our advice isn’t to spend the rest of your day standing, but rather to take small steps to incorporate a healthy change.
Find opportunities to stand up
Even if you think you stand or walk a healthy amount, there are undoubtedly more opportunities for you to get up. If you’re making a phone call (at work or in your personal life), try to stand for part of it. If you take public transportation to get to work or school, stand instead of sit. While this may seem like a very small change, it can do your body a lot of good.
Stand while you work or suggest getting a standing desk
At work, you may feel your only option is to sit down. However, numerous companies now make a standing desk. Some are full desks, while others can sit on top of a standard work desk and lift to a desired height. While these aren’t always inexpensive, it never hurts to email your boss and ask if this is something the company would expense. Typically, if a company recognizes it may help their employee be more productive (and healthier, leading to less sick days), they are happy to procure it. And if they are unwilling to spend the money, but you’d like to invest in it yourself, ask if they have a problem with it.
Get your body moving with a lunch break walk
Whether you have a standing desk or not, you can still get your blood flowing at work with a walk on your lunch break. While this isn’t a suggesting to skip eating in exchange for a walk around the parking lot, it is a suggestion to spend as many minutes as you can up and walking. You may be surprised to feel more awake and focused when you return to your desk!
Get your coworkers and classmates involved
When you’re trying to improve your health, don’t be afraid to involve others. Along with keeping you motivated, it can also help your friends, family and coworkers to improve their help as well. You may find that many in your office or school would like to take a walk with you on your lunch break or petition to get standing desks. And you’ll feel doubly good for having positively impacted someone’s good health!
Take a break, from your chair
Ask your boss if he/she would have an issue with you taking a brisk walk around the building every hour or so. Ideally you could stand and walk for every hour of sitting, but it’s important not to take advantage of this time away from your desk.
Include standing up as part of your fitness plan
If you’re goal-oriented, set a goal of steps to meet every day. FitBit or different smart watches will help you track, but apps such as Map My Run or the native Health App on an iPhone will also do the trick. Start off with a goal of 7000-8000 steps every day.
Go out and stand up
Hopefully after reading this article, you’re inspired to stand up or get walking, but don’t wait around and start tomorrow. Share this article with friends and family and go take a walk. This is the only body you have, so try to take care of it. Even if you’re young and healthy now, it’s so important to do as much as you can to maintain that. Good luck on your new habit!