Is Sitting the New Smoking?

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JLP Staff

Health /

A sedentary lifestyle may be one of the biggest threats to Americans’ health. Since 1960, the percentage of active jobs in America has decreased from 50% to 20% — and in the same time frame, the rate of obesity has risen from 13.4 to 35.7%.

Scientists have coined a new saying for the harmful health effects of a sedentary lifestyle — sitting is the new smoking. Why? Because along with increased risk for poor posture, obesity, diabetes, and cancer, sitting for most of the day makes your risk of having a heart attack the same as if you smoke.

Americans spend an average of 13 hours a day sitting — and this doesn’t take into account the 8 hours we spend sleeping. And a huge culprit of the time we spend sitting is while we’re at work.

Although working out and eating healthy can help you stay fit, finding ways to make your sedentary jobs more active can help you curb obesity and other critical conditions that can be a consequence of too much sitting.

Here are 3 simple ways you can stay active at your sedentary job to improve your health today.

1. Add Two Years to your Life for Under $30.00

Although a treadmill desk is probably your best bet for getting out of your chair while you work, not all office environments can support this equipment. But one simple solution to get more movement into your day is to use a standing desk.

A standing desk can help you burn more calories and stave off increased risk of obesity and other serious conditions. You could even increase your life expectancy by two years just by reducing your sitting time from six hours to three every day.

And you don’t have to buy a whole new desk in order to start standing at work — this cardboard converter from Ergodriven allows you to turn any desk into a standing desk for less than $30. And if this is too steep, get creative and build your own standing desk by grabbing some extra books, boxes, or crates to raise your workspace. 

To build up your tolerance for standing, start by standing for twenty minute intervals and sitting for twenty minutes throughout the day. If you find standing distracting at first, save your sitting moments for when you have important phone calls or meetings.

2. Take it Outside 

If you love catching up with colleagues during your lunch break, try leaving the office — encouraging your coworkers to walk with you during your lunch or other breaks is a great way to stay active and still fit in some face-time. You can even meet before or after work to squeeze in a walk. The fresh air and movement can help prepare you for the day ahead or decompress after a long day.

Plus, taking a walk during your lunch break can help boost your job performance too — a lunchtime stroll can improve your mood, help you manage stress, and pump fresh oxygen in your brain to tackle new challenges ahead.

Along with walking during breaks, consider turning your meetings into walking meetings to stay productive and keep moving forward — literally!

And if it’s cold out, no problem — here are 5 ways to stay active during winter >

Using a pedometer to track your steps is another great way to increase your physical activity throughout the workday. Learn more about staying fit and tracking your steps today >

3. Take on the Hour Challenge

Set your phone alarm to go off every sixty minutes throughout your work day. At the alarm, get out of your chair and get your blood pumping. If you're lucky enough to have your own office space, try completing two minutes of physical activity such as jumping jacks, wall sitsa plank, or ten lunges on each leg. 

For those of us in a work environment where we might get a raised eyebrow for doing jumping jacks at our desk, something as simple as taking a walk around the floor, filling up your water bottle, walking up the stairs, making copies, or even taking a trip to the bathroom to wash your hands can be less conspicuous ways to get moving. 

Feeling social? Get a friend on board and challenge each other to see who can get moving every hour during the day. 

Regardless of the amount of work that threatens to keep you glued to your desk chair, making small adjustments to your routine can help you stay active and support a longer, healthier life.


Categories: Health
About The Author
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Joan Lunden’s in-house research and writing team works with Joan to create content that complements her focuses and the interests of her fans. The team is dedicated to creating a thriving community through content and conversations, and hopes their work, like Joan’s, can make a difference in the lives of her readers everywhere.

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