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Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Most of us know that smoking isn’t good for our health, but what about sitting? We all do that, whether at work, at school or during our daily commute—not to mention during meals and leisure time. So, when research linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, people began to wonder what alternatives they had, including working at a standing desk.

The Problem with Sitting

A number of studies have shown that prolonged sitting is related to obesity, as well as metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions that include increased blood pressure and sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol level. Sitting for a long time also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In addition to what sitting can do to the cardiovascular and circulatory system, sitting also affects the musculoskeletal system. After sitting for a long time, we're more likely to slouch creating poor posture which can create a myriad of issues from headaches to low back pain.

When we sit, we also burn fewer calories than if we’re on the move, so that can also lead to weight gain. Interestingly, even if you exercise regularly, but sit a lot, your health is still at risk.

Alternatives to Sitting 

A standing desk lets you transition from sitting to standing whenever you need. If you are new to using a standing desk, be sure to gradually transition to it, starting with one hour per day and increasing over four to five weeks to stand three to four hours a day. Even then, change positions every 30 minutes to an hour.

If you (or your company) can’t access a standing desk, there are other alternatives to increase your movement on a regular basis. 

  • Take a break. Set a timer to take breaks every 30 minutes and walk down the hallway or stretch.
  • Have walking meetings. Instead of sitting around a conference table, hold a meeting outside. The fresh air will help everyone focus and the movement will ensure no one falls asleep.
  • Have a standing meeting. If you can’t meet with your team on the go, take the chairs out of the conference room and have everyone stand. You may be surprised at how efficient the meeting is, when no one can settle into a seat.
  • When driving a long distance, schedule rest breaks so you can get out of the car and stretch your legs.
  • If you’re using public transportation, stand up instead of rushing to the first available seat.
  • At home, use commercial breaks to get up from the couch and complete quick tasks or exercises.
  • At your desk, stand up while on an audio call. If you have a headset, put it on and walk or pace during the call.
  • If your organization has a treadmill desk, use it several times a day to stay on the move.
  • Use an exercise tracker and set a reminder for it to tell you to move every 30 minutes—and follow it.

Too much sitting is a big problem. But by intentionally taking time for short amounts of consistent activity, you can avoid and prevent all the ailments that come with it, one small movement at a time.

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