We’re now a few months into the new year and likely feeling super proud of the progress you’re making. You’ve hit the gym a couple times a week consistently, tried to get in a healthy mix of cardio, strength, core, and flexibility work. You’re eating better and feeling great. While each of these new habits is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and will certainly help you reach your health and fitness goals, there’s still one more thing you need to do: STAND UP!
Did you know one hour of exercise a day won’t put a dent in the negative side effects of too much sitting? Depressing, I know—but stick with me. It’s a reality that has to be contested for our overall health.
A Sitting Culture
As we’ve advanced as a society, we’ve become increasingly sedentary. A 2009 Medibank survey estimated that an average Aussie spends 67% of waking time in sedentary behaviors such as sitting.
Researchers have been working for years to document the negative effects sitting has on the body. There’s evidence that sitting increases the risk of developing various types of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. It also increases your risk of obesity, can decrease your mobility, and simultaneously interferes with the enzyme that breaks down fat (lipoprotein lipase), which can lead to fat being stored instead of utilised. Oh, and let’s not forget, sedentary behaviour is associated with a higher risk of developing depression. Scared sit-less, yet?
How to Sit Less
- Establish Awareness
Become aware of how long you’ve been seated by setting a timer that reminds you to move. The Apple Watch has a Time to Stand Notification that reminds you to move if you haven’t over the last hour. But if you don’t have a watch, simply set a timer and when it goes off, move around. General step counters are also nice, to encourage movement and daily accountability—just make sure to spread out those steps throughout your day.
- Move More Often
The answer isn’t just standing instead of sitting (so no, you can’t just ditch your office chair for a standing desk and call it good). You actually need to move. If your job already has you upright and you don’t have a traditional office set-up, make sure you walk (even march in place or take small steps side-to-side), squat, bend forward at the waist or side to side, and twist whenever you can. The secret is to change positions as often as you can.
- Offset The Sitting Slump
Even if you can accomplish #1 and #2, working a desk job, driving around town, or even sitting on a plane for too long can wreak havoc on your body. Adding functional training to your weekly exercise routine is the best way to ensure muscles that are shortened, tight, and weak from sitting having the opportunity to get back in working order!
Of course, we’re not saying that all your hard work in the gym is useless. Working your body from head to toe, strengthening the heart, and increasing your mobility will form the foundation of your fitness. But bringing awareness to what happens the other hours and days that you aren’t in the gym will also play a big part in your longevity and vitality!