The Sitting Disease. In recent years, the scientific community has coined this new term which refers to the negative effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle.
It’s an ominous sounding name to be sure, and one that sparks a bit of resistance. I mean, come on…is sitting really on par with disease? Can something which seems so harmless—and something so incredibly commonplace—really be that bad for you?
According to numerous studies, the answer is: YES.
Sitting, it turns out, is “more dangerous than smoking,” according to Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic and inventor of the treadmill desk. Research shows that prolonged sitting increases your risk for various types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and even depression. Further, these risks don’t appear to be mitigated even for those who also exercise frequently.
This is bad news for the 86% of the American workforce who work desk jobs. Add in the time spent sitting on the couch at night and sitting in your car as you drive to and from work, and desk workers may find themselves on their rear ends upwards of 13 hours a day. (Note: High risk is considered 8 to 10 hours of sitting a day.)
If you’re a desk worker, take a minute right now to approximate how much time in an average day you spend sitting. Go on, I’ll wait.
For most, that number will be pretty scary. Looking at it, you may realize that your job is indeed slowly killing you.
But wait! Don’t panic! There are a lot of simple things you can do to resolve the problem without quitting your job. Plus, the Sitting Disease has received a lot of attention in the past few years, so employers are much more open to discussing possible solutions. Here are a few things to try:
1. Stand up while working. This is the most obvious solution, but it can be tricky if you don’t have a standing desk or adjustable desktop. You can always create your own with a makeshift platform for your computer monitor and keyboard, but your company may be willing to purchase the necessary equipment. A 2017 SHRM survey found that 44% of HR professionals said their company was currently providing or subsidizing the use of standing desks, making this one of the fastest growing employee benefits.
2. Take a walking break every hour. If you can’t stand at your desk, get up and stand—or even better, walk—at least once an hour. Take a lap around the building or climb a few flights of stairs. It doesn’t have to be rigorous; you don’t even need to change shoes or go outside. Just get the blood flowing for a few minutes before you return to your chair.
3. Sit on a stability ball. They may look silly, but stability balls engage your muscles to keep you balanced, making you more active even while seated.
4. Hold standing or walking meetings. This is a great way to keep meetings short too! No one can get too comfortable and camp out in the conference room.
5. Instead of sending an email, making a phone call or using IM, walk to someone’s office to chat. This has the added benefit of building rapport and minimizing miscommunications.
Even if you have a desk job, you don’t have to resign yourself to a sedentary life. Don’t take it sitting down! Stand up to the Sitting Disease with these simple strategies.