Most of us know all about the health risks associated with smoking cigarettes or eating too much junk food. But do you know what too much sitting can do to your health?
Maybe you’ve heard the new slogan adopted by health experts when discussing the harmful effects of American’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle: sitting is the new smoking.
Americans spend an average of 13 hours a day sitting. And for most of us, the majority of the time we spend sitting is while we’re at work.
After a long day at the office and sitting in traffic, it’s tempting to not want to go home and binge-watch your favorite show. But all that sitting can be bad news for your health.
Along with increasing your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cancer, sitting for most of the day can increase your risk of a heart attack at the same rate that smoking does.
Although working out and eating nutritious food can help you stay healthy, becoming more active in your sedentary job can help you curb obesity and other illnesses that can come along with too much sitting.
Here are 3 ways you can stay active at your sedentary job to help you live a longer, healthier life.
1. Switch sitting for standing
The most obvious way to combat the health effects of sitting is to spend more time standing throughout the workday. But a traditional work environment could make this a challenge.
It’s more than likely that your office space can’t support the size of a treadmill desk — though if you work from home, this is one of the healthiest options to keep your feet moving throughout the day.
But a smaller and less expensive way to spend less time sitting is to use a standing desk while you work.
A standing desk can make a difference in fighting off obesity and other health issues associated with too much sitting. You could increase your life expectancy by 2 years just by reducing your sitting time from 6 hours to 3 hours every day.
And you don’t have to invest in a brand new standing desk, either. This cardboard converter lets you turn your ordinary desk into a standing desk for $30.
It might be uncomfortable to move from sitting to standing all day. Start by alternating standing and sitting for 20-minute intervals throughout the day.
2. Get outside
Getting outside during the workday can do your brain and body good — and might even boost your job performance.
If you spend your lunch break at the office catching up with colleagues, take your social hour outside.
Going for a walk with workmates on your lunch break (or after work before the drive home) is a great way to break the spell of sitting, burn calories, and increase blood flow.
Not only that, but a lunchtime stroll can help you de-stress from a busy morning and pump fresh oxygen to your brain to tackle the challenges of the afternoon.
You can also turn any of your one-on-one meetings throughout the day into walking meetings.
Fresh air is proven to boost brain functioning, so you and your colleague could cook up even more creative solutions than you would have while sitting in a conference room.
Not to mention you’ll be breathing air into your problem-solving skills — literally.
3. Rise to the half-hour challenge
Short intervals of exercise throughout the workday can help keep your circulation flowing and your heart healthy.
The half-hour challenge is a great way to break the spell of sitting and get you active 2 times an hour throughout the workday.
Set your phone alarm for every 30 minutes. Once the alarm goes off, perform a 2-minute physical activity to increase your heart rate.
If you can step outside or work from home, a quick high-intensity cardio interval like jumping-jacks, high-knees or mountain climbers can help get your heart rate up fast and push fresh blood through your body.
But if you’re in a quiet office, other effective exercises for the challenge are two 30-second wall sits, a plank, or 10 lunges on each leg.
You can also consider bringing a set of weights with you to the office to squeeze in strength intervals throughout the day. This can be a quieter way to increase blood flow and stay active without disrupting your neighbors.
Making small adjustments to your work routine can help you stay active and support a longer, healthier life. And exercise has proven to be one of the most effective ways to fight off multiple forms of cancer and to keep cancer in remission.