It’s time to stand up to a sitting down world

We spend an incredible amount of time sitting down.

Infact, a typical series of movement during the course of the day could go like this: wake up from laying in bed, shower, dress and then have breakfast sitting at a table, jump in the car to work, and then head for the desk and plonk ourselves on a chair, where for the most part we will be seated for on average 5-7 hours a day. We might perhaps go to a meeting, or two..or three….and sit around at the meeting.  We might have to leave the office and travel somewhere, perhaps in the car.  For those at school, college or university the situation isn’t much different. Most education is situated in a class room or seminar where we….guess what? Sit and listen to someone. We might travel home in a car or on the bus, and we might get home and sit down to eat and drink. Maybe we’ll stay at home and watch TV on the sofa, or game or fiddle on our gadgets.  Or maybe we’ll go out and socialise, sitting down.  We finish our day by falling into bed to start the sitting down routine again.

The majority of us are defaulting to sitting.

There is nothing intrinsically “wrong” with sitting. But too much sitting, over a long period of time can cause havoc with our bodies and our minds.  The jury is now out about the impact of sitting too long and too often, and the statistics are stark.   Sitting for more than six hours a day makes you potentially 40% more likely to die 15 years earlier than someone who sits less than three hours, even if you work out. And a 2012 study by the University of Leicester suggested that prolonged sitting is linked to a greater risk of death from pretty much most causes death although diabetes was highlighted as a key risk.

Why is this ?  The biometrics of sitting suggest that as soon as you sit, electrical activity in the leg muscles shut off, calorie burning drops to about one-per-minute and enzymes that help break down fat drop 90%. Additionally, too much time spent sitting can decrease good cholesterol and insulin effectiveness, which raises your risk of getting diabetes.  People who sit most of the day, every day, over time, have an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack. A cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic suggests that the risk is the same as smoking. This is probably where the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” has come from.

The key to this might well be moving to a standing desk but for many people that is a step too far and too fast. So the next best thing is to move more.

It’s not that difficult.  Set a timer and move more every half hour seems to be a commonly suggested antidote to this.  And it can be simply result in you becoming the most appreciated person in the office or at home because a good excuse to move more is by getting in teas or coffees or just plain old water.  It can even result in a deepening your social connections.  If you find excuses to go and chat to people rather than email or phone you are moving more and getting to know people a bit more. And if people phone you, stand up and move around – its quite liberating and allows you to breathe more rather than staying crunched up on your chair.  If you can, try to get out for a walk too. If that’s a step too far, start with a ten minute walk, then move up to twenty or thirty minutes. Grab a work colleague, a friend, family or neighbour and go for a walk and talk. It’s a nice way to build a relationship, sort things out, get fresh air and get some exercise.

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