Stand Up! Why "Sitting is the New Smoking"
As I write this post I am currently standing at my desk. Yes, you read that correctly, I am standing. You are possibly wondering why and how I am standing at my desk. Let me explain... Why?
In the last few years sitting, or more specifically our sedentary lifestyles, have become somewhat of a hot topic in the world of health and science. More and more research is showing that the sedentary nature of our modern-day lives is incredibly detrimental to our health and contributes significantly to contemporary ailments such as obesity, diabetes, lower back (in fact any kind of) back pain, heart disease, hormonal imbalances, depression, anxiety and much, much more! The concern has become so great that a new phrase has been coined: sitting is the new smoking.
This might seem alarming, considering we are now fully aware of the awful consequences of smoking, but the reality is that the potential danger that sitting poses to our health is very real. This article pretty much sums it up:
So what can you do about it? Well, the simple answer is to sit less and move more! As suggested in the article above, doing one hour of exercise per day is not necessarily enough to counteract the other 10 hours of sitting. Instead you need to try to get as much incidental movement into your day as possible. Some possible ways to do this include:
- Holding walking meetings with people, or going for a walk to catch up with a friend instead of sitting down to coffee or even a movie date.
- Taking regular breaks at work to stand up from your desk, walk around and even go outside for some sunshine therapy if you have time. In your lunch break, instead of sitting for the whole time, eat your lunch in a calm and relaxed manner and then take a stroll around.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator to get your heart rate up.
- Walk to and from work as much as you can, or get off the tram/bus a few stops earlier and walk from there.
- When on public transport, stand up and balance yourself with your core and legs - it's a fun way to get your muscles active!
- Engage in active hobbies, such as hiking, walking, rock climbing, yoga, swimming or whatever floats your boat really. As long as you are moving it is good for you!
- Watch TV whilst doing some gentle yoga stretches or even a yogi squat!
- Get a stand-up desk (see below).
The other new trend emerging from these findings are stand-up desks (which answers the how part of your earlier questions). After reading about the dangers of spending too many hours sitting many times, I finally decided to bite the bullet and invest in my long term health by purchasing a stand-up desk. The reality is that at uni I do sit for extended periods of time in lectures, but I also used to spend even longer at my desk at home studying. Whilst I may not be able to stand during lectures (at least not yet), I realised I could change my home study habits.
I ended up deciding to buy a Varidesk, which is an innovative desktop version of a stand-up desk that can be used both sitting down and standing. The idea is that you can stand and work, but when you need a break (say your legs get tired) you can lower the desk and continue working. Once you are ready to stand, simply pop it back up again. I read hundreds of great reviews for the Varidesk and I can personally attest to its functionality and sturdiness. The desk also arrived the day after I order it, you can't beat that kind of service!
The benefits of a stand-up desk include improved posture, core strength, leg strength and blood circulation. When standing (correctly) your spine is aligned in the most natural position and this helps to build complete core strength and alleviates lower back pain. You also stand upright and thus your shoulders are not hunched over a desk, so this can also prevent the tight neck and shoulders that are chronic in desk workers. For those of you who are concerned about cellulite, standing allows the blood and lymph fluid to be returned to the heart for processing and thus helps to prevent cellulite and varicose veins in the legs due to lack of blood flow. I have also noticed I much more aware of my posture and what the muscles in my body are doing. I am learning how to stand correctly, with my feet aligned under my hips, my knees slightly bent (important especially as I have hyper-extending knees) and my core lightly engaged at all times. From my stand-up desk it is much easier to take an easy stretch and twist, and I can easily wiggle my feet or stand on my toes to wake up my leg and calf muscles.
It might seem like a strange concept, but I can promise you that it takes no time to adjust to a standing desk, and then you'll wonder why you ever sat at all!
What are your thoughts on the 'sitting disease'? Have you tried a stand-up desk?