What are you doing as you read this article? If you are sitting, have you paused for a moment to think of how sitting for too long can be harmful to you?
With regards to this topic, scientists and researchers have managed to compile both good and bad news. Let’s begin with the bad news. The manner in which adults in the working class do their work has gradually changed in the past few decades.
As much as the current workplaces can be termed as being ‘safer’ from occupational hazards, the real danger has come to develop in the way they spend most of their day seated and glued to a screen.
While this mode of working has been taken up as the new norm, the human body was not built for this kind of stationary existence. Scientific evidence points to the fact that long sitting periods significantly pose a high risk of heart-related diseases, type 2 diabetes and in some cases even death, to human beings.
Research has revealed that the number of diabetes cases have doubled up over time. Furthermore, 15% of all human deaths can be attributed to diabetes. Studies have also established that sitting for long poses a high risk of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancer.
In fact, sitting contributes to 13% of all cancer-related death cases. On the same note, studies have established that in the same way there is an existing relationship between the sedentary lifestyle and depression, there is also a positive relationship between taking part in exercise and one having a positive mood.
The positive mood, in the long run, prevents one from falling into depression. Scientists have due to this recommended replacing one of the hours spent in the sitting position with standing or moving around since it lowers the risk for cardiovascular diseases and lowers the mortality rates.
As the person in charge of your wellbeing, you can minimize the risks associated with sitting for too long by exercising daily. One requires an estimated 80 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activities or an equivalent of 40 to 45 minutes of high-intensity exercise daily to reap the benefits of lower disease and mortality rates.
Moderate-intensity activities include light-walking, while high-intensity workouts include jogging. If you usually engage in exercise for the suggested period, then you should keep doing so.
In the UK and Australia, the governments have created initiatives that are aimed at combating the risks associated with sitting for long.
The Australian government has, for instance, emphasized on the issue of sitting for long, from a public health perspective. In one of the studies conducted in Australia, a recommendation was put forward that every person should exercise daily.
The study also suggested that one should accumulate an average of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise, and 1.25 to 2.5 hours of high-intensity exercises.
Also, the research recommended that people should do muscle-strengthening activities for a minimum of two days a week while reducing the time spent sitting. Finally, the study advised that all sitting periods should be broken up as often as possible.
Approximately 60% of all Australian adults do not do the minimum amount of exercise recommended in a day, which is 30 minutes’ worth of exercise. This is despite the fact that 30 minutes are not actually sufficient to adequately minimize the risks associated with sitting for long.
It is therefore logical and prudent to target not only active behavior but also the sitting behavior in a bid to create a whole-day approach to improve our health status.
In a study done in 20 countries, 49000 people agreed to sitting for an estimated five hours in a day. According to the Irish Heart Foundation, people in Ireland work for at least 7.3 hours a day while sitting. This length of time is an increase of 40% since the 1960s. The introduction of technology is the primary cause of the immobility of human beings in the workplaces.
Besides the adverse effects of sitting too much, scientists have gone to the lengths of providing workable solutions, and that is good news to all of humanity. Evidence has shown that for individuals who barely engage in exercise, replacing their sitting time with light-intensity like walking around for a short time significantly reduces the risk of premature death.
The reasoning behind this is because, when we sit for prolonged periods, the major muscles in the lower body get “switched off” thus minimizing the amount of blood circulating through the lower body.
The biological consequences of this state of inactivity are the disruption of the body’s metabolic and cardiovascular systems, such as the maintenance of optimal blood sugar levels and the right blood pressure.
Scientists have tried exploring several potential ‘countermeasures’ to minimize the health risks associated with prolonged sitting at work. A study recommends that workers should start with trying to stand for two hours a day and then move to four hours a day.
If one can eventually stand for fours a day that can equate to half of their day being spent standing. The study also suggests that it is possible to reduce the hours spent sitting while increasing the number of hours spent standing without affecting the total productivity.
For instance, standing barely impacts on the speed and quality in typing jobs. You may actually find that the speed and quality of your typing improve over the long term.
Standing for long has been to significantly reduce back pain and fatigue, which are two significant factors which affect our productivity in our workplaces.
Experimental research also shows that introducing breaks in which we get to do activities as opposed to sitting “switches on” the muscles in our lower body thus enhancing better blood flow and the improved regulation of blood sugar levels throughout the day.
There are simple activities that office workers who do not have the opportunity to walk around can do to reduce the risks associated with sitting for long.
These include setting a timer, getting up from the chair and doing 3 minutes’ worth of simple movements and stretches. For example, they can do half-squats, knee raises as well as toe stands.
Doing such simple exercises after every 30 minutes throughout the 8-hour day requires no special or expensive gym equipment, but has very positive impacts such as improving the blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and reducing fatigue. Better yet, these exercises “switch on” the muscles in the lower body without having to spend a lot of time leaving the office to reap the benefits.
Office workers who are necessitated to sit for long hours during the day should think of their bodies as being like car gearboxes. If most of their day is spent in a sitting position, this is likely to result in a state that can be compared to a cold engine.
Shifting gears may be likened to the simple exercises they can carry out just by standing up next to their work desk. It can also be compared to doing light-intensity walks, then moving to moderate intensity activities, and finally to the high-intensity activities which get a person to the fifth, or simply a state with better health benefits.
For many workers who work in offices, making a shift from reverse to fifth is hard to achieve daily, and this may demotivate them in the long run.
It is crucial to recall that sitting is to some extent okay because we need rest.
We should, however, strive to establish a suitable balance between movement and sitting all through the day, for us to be in the best state of mind. In the same way, we get creative at avoiding movement, we can also create ways to sit less throughout the day.
For example, the waste buckets, printers, and break stations should be placed in a central position in the office.
You may also use the following tips to help you to avoid sitting for periods of more than 20-30 continuous and unbroken minutes: stand up while using public transport , park at the furthest point in the car park, look for more active ways to hang out with your friends such as taking a walk to the café, arrange for standing and walking meetings, drink water more frequently to increase the time spent on toilet breaks, take the stairs, walk to colleagues to talk to them instead of emailing them, and finally you should stand up and pace up and down while on the phone.