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Sitting: The Newest Enemy

May 31, 2012

In a growing body of research, adults who spend extended periods of time sitting—driving, sitting at work, or in front of the television—are subject to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. According to James A. Levine, PhD., even several hours a week at the gym doesn’t make a significant difference in risk factors.

In addition, a recent Australian study found that breaking up time spent sedentary (sitting) helps the body normalize metabolism and regulate blood glucose. “Thus, reducing sitting time may have at least as important a role as promoting physical activity in maintaining healthy weight and in preventing further weight gain and improving chronic disease outcomes in mid-age adults; it is crucial for the future health of aging populations.”

Consider this graphic from the American Institute for Cancer Research, directly linking sedentary lifestyles to cancer risk. Common wisdom dictates that we complete our prescribed workouts for the day and we’re “done,” similar to Mike on the graph who has moderate risk factors.

Our bodies were built to move, so how can we incorporate movement into our office jobs and home life? These tips from Bottom Line/Health and Dr. James Levine are a great place to start.

  • Schedule “walking meetings.” This is ideal when you need to meet with just one or two people and don’t need to take a lot of notes.
  • Cut back on phone calls and e-mails to coworkers. When you need to speak to a coworker, walk to his/her work space. Besides getting you out of your chair, this face-to-face communication style has been shown to improve relationships.
  • Follow the 10-minute rule. Whenever you’re working at a computer, get up for 10 minutes every hour to stretch your back and legs. Use this time to perform tasks that can be done while standing, such as making phone calls.
  • Take the stairs. Avoid the elevator when going to and from your office floor.
  • Park your car a distance (half a mile, for example) from your office. If you take mass transit, get off the bus or subway one or two stops before your destination.
  • Take a midday walk. Use half your lunch hour for a stroll.
  • Use a standing desk.
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