Prolonged sitting is an unhealthy habit that I’m definitely guilty of. Even though I exercise fairly often… most of my day is spent most in front of a computer. I’ve tried a couple of times to use a standing desk, but it hasn’t ever fully taken. So I decided to do a little more research on the topic so see if there are any other options.
Just how bad is sitting all day for you? Sitting puts you at a greater risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes, obesity and a host of other health problems. One study found that women who reported more than 6 hours per day of sitting were 37% more likely to die over a given period of time than those who sat fewer than 3 hours a day. Men who sat more than 6 hours a day were 18% more likely to die than those who sat fewer than 3 hours per day. Other studies have shown even more pronounced risks. Worse, time spent sitting was associated with mortality even among men and women with the highest levels of physical activity.
What Causes the Problems?
Researchers have found that lack of movement triggers a different metabolic pathway. When you sit down electrical activity to the legs shut off, calorie burning drops, enzymes that help break down fat drop (increasing triglycerides), and insulin becomes less effective (making blood sugar levels less stable).
This is fine if you sit for short periods, but the longer you sit the more pronounced and stable these changes become. And Unfortunately, the average person sits 9.3 hours a day, which is more than the average person sleeps (7.7 hours a day).
What Can You Do?
So, it appears that it might not be total time spent sitting, but uninterrupted time spent sitting that is the problem. To test this hypothesis, one study had participants sit down for either 7 hours straight or stand up and take a 2 minute walking break every 20 minutes. Those who broke up the sitting time had reversed the negative effects of sitting. Another study, found that people who took more breaks from sitting had lower blood sugar, triglycerides, BMI and waist size.
So, all you need to do is take a break from your desk every 20 minutes or so. One great thing I’ve noticed while adding healthy habits into my own life is that they often fit nicely with one other. A famous time management technique, known to boost productivity, is the Pomodoro technique. This involves working straight for 25 minute blocks and then taking a 3 to 5 minute break in between. A longer 15 to 30 minute break is taken after every fourth block of time. So by taking breaks from sitting every 20 to 25 minutes you will become healthier and potentially more productive at the same time!
Bonus: You’ll also burn more calories by sitting less. A final study found that you burn 50 calories more per hour when standing vs. sitting. If you stand 3 hours more a day, that translates into 8 pounds of weight loss a year (the equivalent of running 10 marathons a year).