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Too Much Sitting Can Harm Your Health

Learn how to move more even if you have a desk job


Updated October 09, 2012

You exercise most days, are in good shape and maintain your body weight. So you don't need to worry about sitting at a desk, or chilling on the sofa for extended periods of time, right?

Wrong. According to researcher, Steven Blair, sitting for six hours a day or more makes you 40 percent more likely to die than someone who sits less than 3 hours a day. And that's even if you get regular exercise.

Sitting for long stretches of time seems to cause the muscles of the lower body to simply shut down, which has harmful health effects, including decreased metabolism. Studies of activity and health found that men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity. Additionally, people who sit more have higher levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and even waist size, which increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a number of health problems.

Sit Less, Move More

Avoiding the pitfalls of sitting for long stretches of time is easy once you know that all it takes is moving around a few minutes each hour. Yes, you really can just get up and walk around the office, or the block, do some jumping jacks, push ups or just have a good stretch and engage the muscles of the lower body for a minute or two. It may not sound like much, but an Australian study found that a few minutes of full body movement each hour, can actually make a difference in your health. When you are sitting, your body goes into a sort of shutdown mode. Because the muscles of the lower body are some of the largest you have, when you sit, much of the muscular system simply stops contracting, blood flow to the muscles decreases dramatically, and your metabolism actually slows way down. Just getting up and engaging those large muscles with some decent muscle contraction, and doing whole body movements for a few minutes every hour can counteract that shutdown. Every little bit counts, so be sure to move more throughout the day.

Simple Ways to Move Every Hour:

  • Use a Stand Up Desk - Stand up work stations are becoming more and more popular. I use one daily and don't think I could go back to sitting at a desk for hours at a time. If you don't want to spend the money on a commercial stand up desk, get creative. Work at a counter top, or stack some sturdy boxes in your desk. Just be sure to maintain proper body mechanics while you improvise.
  • Walk and Talk - The next time you need to meet with a colleague about a work project or brainstorm session, consider talking it on the road. Go for a short walk and talk over your tasks, ides and project plans. An added bonus: Fresh air and exercise can boost creativity, problem-solving and cognitive functioning, so take advantage of all the benefits of walking and talking while on the job.
  • Push ups - Drop do and give yourself 20. Push ups wake up the whole body in a hurry.
  • Incline Push ups - If you don't want to drop t the floor at work, use a desk or sturday chair to pump out a few incline push ups between meetings.
  • Chair Dips - Using two chairs facing each other, grab the edge of one with your hands, and prop you heels up on the other. Bend your elbows and lower your hips. Then push up the the start position.
  • Walking Lunges - Walking lunges, with or without weight, wake up the lower body and get your leg muscles firing.
  • Wall Sits - Sit against a wall with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Hold for as long as you can.
  • Planks - Drop down into a plank position and hold for as long as you can.Alternate leg lifts for an added boost.
  • Lateral Jumps - Jumps side to side for 60 seconds. Take a rest if you need, but aim for a minute.

Just how bad is sitting all day? Check out this infographic from Mashable.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Sports Medicine
  4. Exercise Science Basics
  5. Exercise Metabolism and Energy Systems
  6. Too Much Sitting Can Harm Your Health - How To Move More During the Day

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