Sitting is the new smoking.
-Dr. James Levine
The effects of sitting are just terrible. The new research that’s coming out is that even if you exercise, it’s not enough to combat the effects that sitting has on your body.
There are some fixes, and it’s important to try and do every little thing you can to help your body while sitting. Your posture is important, what type of chair you sit in, it all counts.
While doing research for this post I was shocked at how bad the effects of sitting really are.
In an ideal world, everyone would be working on treadmill desks, or at least using some sort of adjustable desk so that you can sit and stand at different times of the day.
I’ll try and break down some of the statistics so that everyone can see how bad it really is, as well as give a few tips to make things easier, but it comes down to 2 very simple words: Move More.
Will Anything Really Work?
Not too long ago, I wrote an article called Your 8 Hour Workdays Are Slowly Killing You.
I honestly hate writing these types of posts, because they scare me. When I do research to try and back myself up with data, I’m blown away by what I find.
Since first starting to write about some of these health effects, I’ve tried to make a few changes in my life, but I feel like it’s not enough.
For example, I’ve parked my car further away from the office to give myself a longer walk.
I also try and be more conscious about how often I get up and walk around, and try to get up at least once every 30 minutes, but I still sit for most of my day.
The other problem is, frankly I don’t lead a very active lifestyle outside of work. We encourage employee wellness at our office, but I drive to and from work (sitting), I watch at least an hour of TV (sitting), I eat dinner with my family (sitting), I do work and study a bit on the computer (sitting).
Even if I do go out with friends, chances are we’re going to a bar (sitting), out to a movie (sitting), or out for dinner (sitting).
Do you see the problem? Even if I work out, that’s maximum 1 hour. 1/24 isn’t a good enough ratio.
Even if you include all my breaks, and my walk to my car, etc…at most that’s another hour. So let’s say maximum 2 hours, out of a 24 hour day.
If I was a betting man, I’d say those numbers don’t look too good.
So what do we do?
There are tons of little employee wellness hacks like standing desks, walking meetings, and office stretches, but again, I’m not convinced that it’s enough, at least not for my lifestyle.
Let’s get into some data, so that I’m not the only one that’s scared.
How Sitting All Day Affects Your Body
I like the idea of blaming my job on the fact that I’ve gained a bit of weight recently, so that I can keep enjoying my late night snacks.
Even without looking at the research it makes sense that since we’re moving less, we’re burning less calories, and therefore not losing as much weight as we are gaining.
Here are some other crazy statistics:
- People who sit for the majority of their day have a 54% greater risk of dying from a heart attack.
- According to a survey, if you sit for more than 4 hours a day, you’re much more likely to suffer chronic ailments like heart disease and diabetes.
- A study done in 2011 found that every hour of TV people watched after the age of 25 was linked to 22 minutes taken off from their life expectancy.
- People who sit less have a lower risk of kidney disease.
- Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64% greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less.
- Sitting increases risk of death up to 40%
Ideas To Move More At Work
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not totally convinced that this is enough, but you should at least be aware of some employee wellness tips that we’ve researched that you can do to better your personal health and wellness while you’re at work.
Dr. James Levine, who studies obesity (also the inventor of the treadmill desk), has found in his research that the effects of sitting all day can’t be outdone by a trip to the gym.
Since we’re pretty much stuck working at a desk most of our days, here are some tips to get you moving more.
- Stand More – I know this seems insanely obvious, but it’s important to remember. This is why I’m such a huge fan of the pomodoro technique, it forces you to stop and take a break once every 30 minutes, so you can use that time to get up and walk around. Also take phone calls standing up, and do stand up meetings.
- Change Your Commute (slightly) – Like I did myself, you should try parking a little bit further, or getting off the bus one stop earlier, or walking an extra block or two, just something to at least get you moving more. Every little bit helps.
- Walk And Talk – Walking meetings are a cool way to conduct your meetings. If it’s nice out, try going for a walk around the block a few times while you chat with your team. I’ll talk more about this in another post, but there’s psychology behind being in a different place that will engage your team.
- Optimize TV Time – Try doing push ups during commercial breaks, or some quick stretches. You shouldn’t be watching so much TV anyways, but if you are, might as well do something good.
- Eat Better – You don’t move much while you eat, except for moving your jaw while you chew, but eating healthy is important, since you’re doing so much damage to your body by sitting, the least you could do is try and feed your body good food.
- Use Tools – Invest in a Fitbit or Jawbone Up, and monitor how you move, and make sure to optimize. A lot of companies use these within their employee wellness programs to allow employees to have an accurate assessment of their progress.
These are only a few tips, I’m sure you can think of a few other ones.
If you want to improve employee wellness, you need to keep your employees healthy and happy.
Don’t be upset if you see employees getting up and walking around, it’s for their own good.