Could things be as simple as sitting less and moving more? Around the world we are spending more and more time sitting and less time on our feet… And even if you are doing exercise in the gym or at certain times of the day it may not be enough to balance out the effects of spending the rest of the day being sedentary.
When thinking about this I realised that many people including children at school and those with office jobs spend pretty much 90% of their time sitting and a small portion of the day walking around the place, usually while commuting or maybe grabbing lunch. The more I looked into it the more it became clear that getting rid of this sedentary behaviour could be the key to getting people on the right track when it comes to building a healthy lifestyle.
Before taking things any further lets look at the hard evidence against what is classified sedentary behaviour – the term is coined by a low level of activity, a level of activity that can only really be achieved by sitting for the majority of the day (watching TV, at a desk, driving, in class etc….). The problem comes in that even if we are active a few times a week – let’s say we go on a few walks and hit the gym twice for a 30 minute workout. The effects of spending the rest of your time sitting still stand and can have some dire implications. There were a few papers (see here and here) recently released which did a long term study on sedentary behaviour and came up with some interesting stuff….
‘Individuals who sat the most were roughly 50% more likely to die during the follow-up period than individuals who sat the least, even after controlling for age, smoking, and physical activity levels.’
‘Numerous epidemiological studies have linked sedentary behavior with obesity, cardiometabolic risk, and even some cancers.’
‘Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little.’ – Dr Marc Hamilton
This is probably down to a few things - Firstly when sitting all day we are more likely to snack and probably eat more, secondly our bodies become less efficient in terms of burning fat (I am convinced that movement of any kind triggers a shift towards fat burning) and finally we just don’t burn as much as we would if we were to be moving all day or at least for a portion of it.
So it makes pretty grim reading but will hopefully give you reason to try and avoid sitting around for too much of the day, and to deal with things I have come up with a few bullet points which address the issue.
- The core of health should be movement - This comes first, before eating better and all that comes with it we need to get into the habit of movement. This often leads to a consious shift towards wanting a more healthy lifestyle, Most people are healthy because they move not the other way around.
- Get on Your feet, moving stretching and playing - Just doing the simple things are key, the best thing is they can all be implemented into your daily life – Add in a few short walks everyday and stretch upon rising and going to bed.
- Find ways to do work or relax without sitting – Stand on your knees at the desk, use stools as they require more balance or sit on a swiss ball.
- Add activity to the day - Use the stairs, walk to TV to change channel or volume, do some quick bodyweight exercises in the morning before breakfast.
- Spend time on your feet - When on public transport for short journeys I like to stand even if there are seats free, this sneaks more standing and less sitting time into the day.
- Sit upright - when you are sitting and avoid slumping/slouching, this helps train good posture and obviously requires more energy than slouching.
Those are just a few ideas but I am sure there are loads of other creative ways people can come up with in order to stand more and sit less. (Please chime in with some comments!)
What is clear though is that as humans we are made to move, this doesn’t mean running around on a daily basis but rather spending a good portion of our days walking, standing and moving in general. If we don’t our bodies rebel and health declines, the good part is a bit of daily movement can counterbalance the effects of sedentary behaviour. Just make sure you space the movement throughout the day and don’t spend any big portions sitting……..