October 2, 2014

Sit less, move more – more often. You may have seen the 60 minutes segment about the importance of sitting less throughout the day. Some time ago we wrote here about the importance of sitting less, and made some suggestions about adopting standing desks for work environments.

Research about the dangers of sitting for extended periods is gathering momentum. Sitting for extended periods on a regular basis is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, overweight/obesity, and early death.

On average, we spend 9.4 hours per day sitting. This includes the commute to and from work, time at work, eating, and watching TV. Right now you’re probably adding up the hours to see if you come in under or over the average.

Compare that to the average sleep time of 7.3 hours. We sit more than we sleep!

Body functions slow down during sitting to be very close to sleeping levels. This adds up to an average of 16.7 hours per day of inactivity. Most of us could not say that we spend the remaining 7.3 hours of the day being active. Walk the dog for an hour, have an exercise session for 30-60 minutes, or do an hour of housework – even doing all of these – is not enough to make up for a sedentary lifestyle.

Being active throughout the day is far more beneficial than scheduling in these relatively brief bursts of activity.

A sedentary lifestyle combined with poor diet means the outlook is bleak. In many ways, it’s easier to make dietary change than it is to change sitting habits, especially if you have a work situation which involves being on the computer or phone all day.

Dr David Dunstan at the Baker IDI is conducting research at Mont Albert Primary School in Melbourne into the effects on grade 6 children of sitting versus standing. These students have chairs and desks which allow them to make the choice of sitting or standing, and that choice can change throughout the day.

Many kids have found that their “brain works better” when standing – a child’s version of improved cognitive function. This means that kids with the option of standing may well achieve better academically, and they’re more focused and less likely to be in trouble for fidgeting.

Translate this to the workplace and the benefits are obvious. What employer would not want more productive staff who think more clearly?

Make change now to rectify a mostly sedentary lifestyle and reduce the chances of all the potential health concerns it causes:

  • Schedule movement periods each hour – set the alarm on your phone or make a recurring calendar entry on computer to remind you to stand up and move. Some gentle movement, stretching, stroll to window and stand looking out, even going to the toilet, all help give your body the movement it needs.
  • Get an adjustable shelf for your work desk. This enables you to sit or stand to complete your work, and you can easily change your work station to suit your choice – multiple times throughout the day. Here‘s an example.
  • Take your tea and lunch breaks away from your desk. Better still, go outside and breathe deeply for a couple of minutes, or go for a short walk.

In the words of Dr David Dunstan: “Sit less, move more – more often.”