The average American spends 12-plus hours a day sitting; this includes at a desk, behind the wheel, at home on the couch, and anywhere else. For thousands of years, human bodies have moved as they are designed to. However, with rapid technological advances (cars, TVs, computers, etc.), physical activity has begun to diminish as technology takes over. According to the American Heart Association, physically active jobs now make up only 20% of the workforce.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the lack of physical activity is one of the top four leading causes of preventable death worldwide, ahead of high cholesterol, alcohol and drug abuse. Sedentary behavior accounts for six percent of deaths globally.
Sitting too long can increase your risk for developing cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, obesity, and other chronic conditions. The ideal situation is a healthy balance of sitting and standing with a period of increased physical activity everyday of at least 30 minutes.
According to research by the Mayo Clinic, people who sit eight or more hours a day with no physical activity have the same risk of dying as of those with obesity and smoking. If your job or lifestyle does require a lot of sitting, individuals with 60-75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day can counteract the effects of too much sitting, as long as multiple breaks are taken throughout the day to stand, walk and stretch.
Simply standing every hour for as little as a few minutes helps lower risk of serious health issues, increases energy and productivity levels, lowers stress, improves mood, boosts metabolism, tones muscles, and helps reduce aches and pains. According to Harvard Medical School, you can burn 30% more calories when you’re standing than when you’re sitting.
You can set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind yourself to get up and move (there’s an app for that), but your best bet is to work on making some of these activities new daily routines for yourself. Things to try might be standing up when talking on the phone, walking to your co-worker’s desk to ask a question rather than sending an email, using a stability ball at your desk, always taking the stairs, holding walking meetings when able, and getting up during commercial breaks when watching TV.
Low-intensity, “non-exercise” activities like standing and walking are much more important than most realize. These simple activities improve bone health, circulation, energy and focus.