Sitting on the train or in the car, sitting at our desks, sitting down for lunch and then sitting on the sofa when we get home is an all too familiar cycle. We have known for years that smoking, junk food and binge drinking are bad for us and all have been shown to cause serious health issues. But there is a new addition to this list – sitting. According to recent research, sitting is the new smoking. In fact, several studies have shown that sitting down for extended periods of time on a regular basis may be a big contributing factor to certain cancers and other serious illnesses. In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, it was found that people who spend more hours of the day sitting have up to a 66% higher risk of developing certain types of cancer than those who lead more active lifestyles.
In addition to being a contributor to serious illness, sitting for long periods of time is terrible for our posture and muscle tone (think limp bottoms and soft abs) and can lead to weight gain. From a mental perspective, movement pumps blood and oxygen through our brain and leads to the release of mood-enhancing chemicals. But when we stop and sit for hours, everything slows down and this can lead to a “foggy brain” and may affect our emotional wellbeing. Research has also found that sitting is associated with other behavioural patterns which adversely affect health such as eating and drinking too much of the bad stuff (desk-side nibbles anyone?) which in turn may contribute to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Unfortunatelya lot of us can’t avoid sitting down at work, especially if we have an office job. And although after-work exercise binges help, research shows that it takes more to really tackle the sitting-sickness epidemic. In fact, medical experts say that it isn’t so much about how much exercise you are doing, but more about how many hours you spend sitting. Here at Hip & Healthy, we have come up with some great ideas to tackle the modern sedentary lifestyle, all of which are easy to incorporate into your daily life.
Ok, so it might draw some unwanted attention in the office but standing desks are awesome. You don’t need to completely exhaust yourself by standing all day but you can alternate between your stool/chair and standing up. Standing up with good posture will improve your mood, muscle tone and burn more calories – winner!
If standing desks are a no-go in your office, try swapping your chair for a swiss ball. Although you are sitting when you sit on a swiss ball, your core muscles are engaged which will help with good posture. Plus you can always throw in the odd ab crunch when nobody’s looking.
Smokers take breaks so we think healthies can too! Taking breaks to walk or move your body every hour during a sedentary day is important. We recommend jumping off the bus or train a couple of stops earlier to walk to work (or even better walk/run to work), taking regular breaks from your desk and taking a walk around the block after lunch and dinner. Or if you can spare the time, join us in living your lunch break and head for a lunch time workout or yoga session (click here for some suggestions).
Say Goodbye to The Sofa
It is all too easy to flop on the sofa when you get home from a long day of sitting down. Instead of sofa-flopping which often means poor posture, eating more than you should and watching trashy TV, go for a walk in the park, bust out a few sun salutations or spend some time in the kitchen cooking up one of our delicious, healthy recipes (while standing of course!). When it comes to eating dinner, eat at the table or if you are table-less, go Japanese and sit on the floor rather than slumping on that sofa. And then post-healthy supper, make the most of the remaining warm, light evenings and go for a short walk.
By following these simple tips, we think it won’t be long before you reap the benefits of sitting less. And who knows, you may even have your whole office using stand up desks!
Words by Kathleen Fleming