Sitting for too long is bad for health – we’ve all heard it before. The average American is stuck sitting for too long at work, and it’s starting to impact our health. One survey commissioned by Ergotron, a standing desk manufacturer, found that as many as 86% of Americans are stuck sitting all day long at work. What impact does being sedentary to this degree have on our health, though? And what can we do to combat the problem? It’s important to find ways to sit less and move more to get active and avoid some of these health issues.
That same Ergotron study indicated that most respondents found excuses to break up their time spent sitting. 85% took these breaks specifically to combat symptoms caused by their sedentary behavior. It’s clear that we’re already making unconscious choices to try to relieve some of the health complications caused by sitting. Taking just a 2-5 minute walk every hour can help to undo the damage that sitting causes. It’s also clear that there’s more that we can do to get up and get active during the day. Here’s how to stand up and get active!
Even better, to get your whole office active, try holding an office step challenge with our Pacer for Teams organizational step challenge platform.
Why Sitting for Long Periods is Bad for Your Health
The Mayo Clinic analyzed 13 studies centered around time sitting and activity levels. Medical professionals found that people who sat for eight hours or more per day with little to no physical activity had similar risks of death as cigarette smokers or those are obese. Mayo Clinic’s team determined that sitting for long periods of time is a factor in:
- Increased blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- Excess body fat carried around the waist
Sitting is just as bad for our brains as it is for our bodies! Researchers at UCLA have determined that those who spent more time sitting than their more active peers experienced thinning of the medial temporal lobe. Other studies have linked sedentary behavior to higher risks of other brain issues.
The Benefits of Getting Active
Just moving has an incredible impact on the human body. It’s not just for those worried about weight loss or burning calories from walking, as not everybody needs to lose weight. Keeping active and combating the time spent sitting at work can benefit anybody in more ways than a slimmer physique.
Even just standing up while you work can make a huge difference in your health. A year-long study backed by professors at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai indicated that 47% of people who took advantage of height-adjustable desks reported significant relief concerning upper back, shoulder, and neck discomfort.
If you can, take a short walk every 30-60 minutes if you’re stuck sitting for long periods. Even if you only can take a minute to move around, it will add up. Taking steps to keep active at work can help decrease your chances of suffering from problems like memory loss, chronic pain and fatigue, and mood troubles. A comfortable person is a happy and functional person– and getting comfortable and feeling happy is hard to achieve if you’re sedentary.
Tips for Getting in More Movement at Work
Setting alarms might be the easiest way to remember to get up and move during the workday. How often you set them and what they mean you’ll be doing are up to you. Setting an alarm at least once an hour is a common reminder to get up and get active. This could mean walking a lap or two through the halls. It could also be standing up and doing some basic stretches or bodyweight exercises near your desk. Just getting up and moving around, however you do it, can make a real difference.
As a side benefit, setting periodic alarms can help keep you focused at work. We all experience periods where we’re unfocused or end up wasting time. An alarm can snap you out of a funk and encourage you to do something. If you’re feeling in a fog, getting moving can increase your creativity!
Walk to Lunch
Working more movement into your daily life is all about small changes. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your healthier lifestyle won’t be, either. Try walking to lunch instead of driving or requesting a rideshare. You’ll have an opportunity to get outdoors and stretch your legs– and you’ll have to walk back, too! Get your office moving by encouraging some of your coworkers to walk to a lunch spot with you.
If you work in a place where there’s really nowhere walkable for lunch, there are a few things you can try. You could drive to a busier area and park a distance away from the restaurant so you can get some walking in. You can also use part of your lunch break for walking. Even a short walk or 5-minute stroll can add up towards a bigger goal. Quick tip – try walking before you eat, as going for a long walk after eating can leave you tired or feeling some indigestion.
Drink More Water
Drinking water will keep you hydrated. It also helps keep you from reaching for high-calorie, high-sugar drinks like soda when you’re thirsty. You can try flavoring your water with low or zero-calorie options like fruit slices, or drink (unsweetened) tea or coffee. Both iced or hot work depending on what you like. Drinking plenty of water keeps you healthy and active, and has a few additional benefits.
First, to drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, you’re going to have to get out your chair and walk to get refills now and then. If you pair up a fancy new hydration schedule with other small changes in the workplace, you might find yourself getting in more steps than you think thanks to small trips.
An additional side … benefit … is that all of that water means you may have to take a few extra trips to the bathroom. That will get you out of your seat and getting steps even more than setting an alarm can.
Talk to Colleagues In-Person
Emails, chat apps, and social media are great ways to communicate, but old-fashioned face-to-face conversations have benefits that electronic media just can’t match. Walk over to a coworker’s desk to drop off some information or ask a question rather than emailing. If you won’t be bothering them too much, consider heading over to talk to teammates in person with questions and concerns. You’ll be able to read their responses more easily face to face, and you won’t need to waste time waiting for them to reply to each message. You’ll also get a lot of extra steps moving around.
For Those Who Want to Go the “Extra Mile”
Try a Standing Desk or Treadmill Desk
If you have the dough to spend (or your office has the resources to spare), consider investing in an adjustable standing desk or treadmill desk to keep you active while you work. Standing or treadmill desks are getting more and more popular, and allow you to stand (or walk slowly) while working on your office computer (especially if you have a laptop). A treadmill desk also allows you to get a treadmill workout in (try Pacer’s treadmill mode to track your individual sessions).
This kind of adjustable desk allows you to walk all day long at any time you want, but also to sit down and rest when you need to. It may feel strange being the only one in the office with a standing desk, but try talking to your coworkers (or your boss) about the benefits of getting active. Walking can make you feel great and improve productivity, which your boss will appreciate.
Hold Standing Meetings
Try hold standing meetings rather than traditional get-togethers around a table. Standing meetings give everyone the ability to get up and move for a period of time, and have additional benefits as well. Having standing meetings means meetings will need to be shorter, with less unnecessary participants. There will be added motivation to stay focused, and when people start to get tired you can always sit if you have to, or reschedule a future meeting once the outstanding issues have been solved.
If you do decide to hold standing meetings, make sure you’re aware of any physical difficulties or disabilities your coworkers may have, and realize that not everyone can comfortably stand for long periods of time. If people have to sit, that’s ok!
Staying up and moving is essential to our health. With so many of us stuck sitting behind a desk for hours on end at work, the time is coming for a shift in how the average American workplace handles fitness. Whether you’re working on your own to get more steps and get healthier, or you’re in the position to set guidelines promote activity for your office, you can make a difference with a few simple changes. Healthier employees are happier employees, and more active employees are healthier!
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.