People are sitting more than ever. While technology has made things more convenient, it has also made us more sedentary. The effect of this type of stationary lifestyle doesn’t just impact us physically, with weakened muscles, weight gain/obesity, and chronic diseases, but also emotionally, putting people who sit all day at a higher risk for depression. The negative health effects of inactivity are astounding, but thankfully, easily reversed.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Not using your legs for long periods of time throughout the day will cause your muscles to stiffen and weaken. After years of constant sitting, the body becomes used to stiffened muscles, which become less proficient at running, jumping, or even standing.
One study looked at people of an advanced age who went through weight training. They started small with three-pound weights and gradually worked up from there. As a result of the training, they were stronger, able to more easily get up from their wheelchairs, and function at a higher capacity. It’s never too late to start, and even a little bit will make a significant difference.
Weight Gain & Obesity
Simply using your muscles releases an enzyme that breaks down fat to use as energy (called LPL or lipoprotein lipase). When the enzyme isn’t being used, the fat gets stored instead. In a study using mice, LPL levels rose more than 10 times when the mice stood rather than laying down. Exercise had no additional effects on the LPL levels.
Higher Risk of Chronic Diseases & Cancer
In addition to increased weight gain and risk of obesity, sitting for long periods of time affects blood sugar levels and insulin in the body. Sedentary people are not only more likely to be obese, but they are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Sitting for too long also increases the risk of colon, endometrial, and possibly lung cancer. A study found that even in physically active individuals, sitting increased the risk of cancer, which worsened with each two-hour increase in sitting time.
Higher Risk of Depression
In a study, those who sat longer and did not meet minimum exercise requirements suffered from depression at much higher rates compared with those who sat less and exercised more. When it came to sitting, those who sat for more than seven hours a day were 47% more likely to suffer from depression than those who sat for four hours or less. In regard to exercise, those who didn’t exercise at all had a 99% higher risk of developing depression than those who met minimum exercise requirements.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
Take a Movement Break Every 30 Minutes
While exercise is very important, being seated for longer than four hours cancels out any exercise a person has done. People who become physically active for as little as 30 seconds start to see physiological changes that will help them get healthier. Simply walking over to your colleague’s desk instead of emailing them will make you feel better right away.
Here are a few other things you can try at work:
- Use movement for productivity–walk a lap or two around the office whenever you hit a road block (or whenever you need more coffee or water)
- Walk to the farthest bathroom in the building
- Stand or walk around the room when talking on the phone or during a conference call
- Have a walking meeting
Keep it moving outside the office too:
- Walk into a restaurant to order your food instead of going through the drive-thru
- Mow your lawn with a push mower
- Prepare your own meals
- Stand up for the opening segment of each TV show you watch and during commercial breaks
Physical activity, even in the smallest amount, instantly makes you feel better and more energetic. Being physically active is critical to weight management and helps to avoid many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. Take a movement break every 30 minutes at home and work and you’ll feel so much happier and healthier.
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