If you sit down for more than 6 hours a day you're 40% more likely to die in the next 15 years compared to someone who sits for less than 3. It's a pretty shocking statistic, but according to recent research our sedentary habits are actually killing us and even doing exercise in the evenings won't necessarily combat the effects of sitting down. People with "sit-down" jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease compared with more active occupations, and with the advent of new technologies moving us into the online world we're sitting down more and more outside of work. It's all well and good understanding the risks of sitting, but how do we go about challenging our stationary behaviour?
Do these three things right now:
1. Adjust your chair to a 135° angle to relieve back strain
2. Try one of these exercises
3. Do a walking motion whilst sitting down
Or, of course, stand up. The glaringly obvious solution is, in this instance, the very best; standing whenever you can will make a difference. This means making a conscious effort to stand up during breaks, to stand up during a brief conversation, to stand up if you're reading something to yourself. According to the IOSH you can burn 78 calories whilst filing or talking standing up for over 30 minutes. In the moments where you really can't stand try to remember to do some desk based exercises as often as possible. When you sit down the electrical activity in your leg muscles shuts off, you burn only one calorie per minute and enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90%. Increasing activity kicks your body out of 'shut-down' or, more appropriately, sit-down mode, which is why these exercises are so valuable. The ideal angle for your chair is actually 135°; it's said to be much better than a straight back at 90° because it puts far less pressure on your back.
Back to encouraging standing. An innovation which has actually been around for a while now, the treadmill desk, offers workers a radical solution to the no-sitting conundrum. Treadmill desks allow workers to get on with their day-to-day chores whilst walking on a treadmill at around one - two mph (although you can go up to four if you're feeling adventurous). So far firms like Google, Microsoft and Evernote have put them in place with workers either hopping on the treadmill for an hour or two before going back to their desks or some using a treadmill desk all day.
A treadmill desk may well be a great solution, but it relies heavily on your employer being willing to fork out for these sometimes expensive ergonomic products. If you can't persuade your boss to invest in the latest innovation, then you're going to have to find other ways to get off your chair. Stand-up meetings are becoming more popular in the workplace for their health benefits and because they can improve the quality of a meeting. Forcing employees to stand up reduces procrastination, digression and keeps meetings short and to the point, so much so that an entire culture has sprung up around the stand-up. Various companies have introduced other rituals into their stand-ups including playing music to gather employees and holding the meeting just before lunch to keep things snappy.
These two solutions sound great, but you know your workspace and a lot of traditional and smaller offices aren't going to start blasting out Johnny Cash before every meeting. So if you can't rely on your entire office to engage in the standing culture you can make a few changes off your own back. Tiny adaptions like parking a little further away from the office every day or getting up to drink more water can help. One idea is to set a day where you deliver messages in person around your office rather than using your internal email to make sure you're getting up through the day.
The most important thing is to remember to move and to get into a routine of getting up. If this means setting reminders at first then it's what you should be doing. Stand up every twenty minutes to half an hour and you could start burning a lot more calories in the day.