The link between sitting and illness first emerged in the 1950s, when researchers discovered that London bus drivers were twice as likely to have heart attacks as their bus conductor colleagues.
You’re probably sitting right now. You probably sit for a lot of the day. If you drive to work, you’re sitting. If you are lucky enough to get a seat on the train, you’re sitting. Unless you have a new-fangled standing desk, you will spend most of your time at work sitting. When you get home you sit to eat dinner and then sit on the sofa.
Sitting slows metabolism. This affects your ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure and to metabolise fat. As metabolism slows fat settles in the body and around organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines and that can be seriously bad for your health.
It can also give you a stiff neck, sore shoulders, and an inflexible spine. Sitting reduces blood circulation to your legs, creates tightness in your hip muscles and gives you spongy abs and drooping glutes. None of which is conducive to improving your running.
It can also affect your concentration. Leaning forward reduces your chest cavity so your lungs don’t fully expand; therefore less oxygen gets to your brain.
A piece in the Washington Post summarises it nicely.
Pretty depressing stuff! But there are some things you can do about it?
The easy answer. Even if it’s in small amounts, it’s all helpful. Go and make a cup of tea. Have a wander to the water cooler. Send your printing to a printer further away from your desk. Go and speak to a colleague instead of emailing them. Go big and ask for a standing desk or even a treadmill desk PIC. If you work at home – make your own.
Dare to have a standing meeting
The idea is that it keeps the meeting short and therefore on agenda (If there is an agenda. If there isn’t, that’s why you have long meetings). If it’s just a meeting for two, get outside and have a walking meeting. Richard Branson does it.
Stop eating Al desko
Not always so easy in these days with oodles of deadlines and ultra-competitive work environments. If you can get outside or go for a wander at lunch you will feel better and are likely to be more productive once you return to the office. I feel the day drags horrendously if I don’t go for my daily walk. There is also the myriad of benefits from getting some Vitamin D.
Sometimes I think self-assessment of your workstation is just a corporation’s way of covering their arse when you go sick with back problems. But hey, if you’re going to be sat there for 8 or more hours you may as well do it in some comfort. Do an assessment and check everything is in the right place. You may even get a funky new chair out of it.
Once it’s set up, make sure no one’s moves it. If you hot desk. I’m sorry. I know it sucks.
I’m also slightly dubious about Corporate Wellness. Is it that healthier people take less sick days and therefore more productive? Is it that your job satisfies you more and therefore you won’t leave? If you work at head office, there are probably lots of activities and initiatives going on to take advantage of. If you work in a remote office you probably just see the odd poster and think that someone, somewhere else is having all the fun.
I understand this is slightly different in the US where health insurance is part of your job package. However suspect you may be of it, take a look what your company offers. There may be something – flu shots, eye tests. I get a health assessment every 6 months, so at least I get my blood pressure and lung peak flow checked regularly.
If you need to stretch it out. Stretch it out. Everyone gets embarrassed about things like this, but do you want to be able to pick up your grandkids?
Breaking news – People who sit for 8 hours a day, but exercise at some point in the day, are less likely to die prematurely.
If you can’t fit exercise into your day via your commute or at lunch, not to worry. If you a weekend warrior – that is just as good as more regular exercise.
Change your commute
The recent London Tube strikes showed how “easy” it is to change up your commute. People ran, walked, cycled, Boris biked. Transport for London even updated their walking tube map. LINK. Hopefully, it opened a few eyes to what you can do.
When I lived in Birmingham it would have been a 4 mile (one way) cycle into work. I never crossed my mind I should/could cycle. As soon as I moved to London, a 10-mile ride (one way) became perfectly manageable. I guess it is just what we are used to. We don’t even poke our head of the box, let alone think outside it.
So sitting is not so good for you but there are things you can do about it either at work or away from it. Have a think about your working day, what you do throughout it and how you can tweak a few changes to get you up and out your seat.