8 Ways to Fight a Sitting Habit that is Diminishing Your Health

Maria Pontillo Physical Therapist Did you know that sitting most of your life is bad for your health? Do you realize how much you sit every day? Think about it: Most of us go to work for eight hours a day and sit all day long (many of us sit AND eat, which is even worse). We drive to and from work while sitting. We go home to eat and watch TV, which usually consists of sitting even more. Many of us spend the majority of our lives sitting, then we wonder why Americans are facing so many health problems. Not only can too much sitting result in weight gain, it can also lead to diabetes, cancer, depression, heart disease as well as other health risks like chronic back and neck pain. According to a recent Runner’s World article, which was forwarded to me by one of my beloved clients and incredible long distance runner, Gus Schmidt, research from the Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care Facility in Canada shows that inactivity is linked to 49,000 cases of breast cancer, 43,000 cases of colon cancer, 37,200 cases of lung cancer, and 30,600 cases of prostate cancer a year.

The University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic teamed up to do a sitting versus standing study with 30 employees at one business in Minneapolis. Each employee had their desks replaced with work stations, making it possible to sit or stand while working. The study proved that standing workers burned more calories, reduced their overall medical bills and had more energy than their colleagues who continued to sit full-time.

Many of you may think that an hour or two at the gym a few times a week will combat your chronic sitting, but think again! Other research shows that people who constantly sit several hours a day will die at an earlier age compared to those who sit less—even if those sitters exercise. “Consistent emerging research suggests it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary, and that sitting increases your risk of death and disease, even if you are getting plenty of physical activity,” said Travis Saunders, a Ph.D. student and certified exercise physiologist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario

Although this information may alarm you, this blog post isn’t suppose to scare you, but rather inform you. There are ways to combat the sitting epidemic that is plaguing most working Americans. I have compiled a list of eight tactics that anyone can incorporate into their lifestyle in an effort to be more active throughout the day, reduce the amount of time they spend sitting and improve their overall health.

1. Set an alarm every 30 minutes: Every 30 minutes, take a 5 or 10 minute break from work and do a physical activity like dynamic stretching. You can even perform 50 squats or planks to get your blood flow going, your muscles engaged and help burn a few extra calories throughout the day.

2. Incorporate simple shoulder and neck stretches into your day: Every hour, dedicate five minutes to stretching your neck and back as this will help prevent injury and help you establish better overall posture.

3. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day: Stick with water and stay away from high calorie drinks like soda and juice. It is important to drink plenty of water every day. The best part about this tactic is that when you drink a lot, it makes you get up and go to bathroom frequently, which is another physical activity added to your daily routine.

4. Stand up and work: Whether you get a standing desk station or stand up for 20 minutes throughout the day to make all your business phone calls, this is another helpful strategy to reducing the amount of time you are sitting.

5. Practice good posture: This is a very important tip to follow – the more conscious you are about your posture, the better it will be.

6. Sit on a stability ball: Try working on your laptop at work with the help of a stability ball. This sitting method challenges the core and prevents slouching.

7. Get a treadmill desk: This is a new innovative desk that can not only help you be productive at work but can also help you burn calories while you work!

8. Don’t sit and eat: Do not eat at your desk as it will become a habit that you practice frequently. This means lunchtime or snack time, get up and go somewhere else to eat!

For more information about how sitting is deteriorating your health, check out this Runner’s World article that inspired this blog post. To help fight the sitting problem facing most Americans, stay tuned for a new Virtual Workout Program that I am launching this September called Workout at Work! In the coming weeks I will release more details about this exciting and innovative way to fight disease and remain active throughout the work week! Make sure to Like my Facebook Fan Page and follow me on Twitter for announcements on this program!