According to a growing number of experts, sitting is the latest health hazard to look out for. But why is a sedentary lifestyle so bad for us, and what can we do about it?
Working from home, online shopping and periods of self-isolation: since the first lockdown struck, many of us will have noticed that we’re sitting down more than ever before.
Unfortunately, this change of lifestyle comes at a cost. Evidence suggests that excessive sitting can expose us to a range of health issues, from backache and varicose veins to diabetes. The reason? Humans were built to stand, with the heart, cardiovascular system and bowel functioning far more efficiently when we’re upright.
Now, this isn’t great news for the thousands of us that have desk-based jobs—but don’t lose hope just yet. There are lots of things you can do to help:
Invest in a standing desk
If you work in an office or from home, one of the easiest ways to reduce your sitting time is to invest in a standing desk.
Standing is certainly better for us than sitting. However, there is evidence to suggest that standing still for long periods of time isn’t hugely beneficial to our bodies either. Balance is key; start by standing for 30 to 60 minutes a day and gradually increase until you’re alternating between standing and sitting every hour.
Take regular breaks
It can be hard to motivate yourself to leave your desk during the working day. However, taking regular breaks—even if it’s just to grab a cuppa—can make a world of difference.
In the office and need to send an email? Get away from your desk and relay the message in person. Working from home and fancy a coffee? Treat yourself by taking a walk to your local cafe. And on days when you’re too busy to take a lunch break, set a timer to remind you to stretch or have a little walk around.
Sit the right way
If you’re spending much of your working life at a desk, it’s important to invest in an office chair that will help you perfect your posture.
Choose a chair with lumbar support to ensure your lower back curves to the shape of the chair, and make sure it’s adjusted so your feet are resting on the floor. You should also avoid crossing your legs and try to keep your back straight as much as you can. Doing so will make the hours you do spend sitting as comfortable as possible.
Get some exercise
Evidence suggests that we need between 60-75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day to combat the dangers of excessive sitting—but the more frequent the better. You’ll be glad to hear that this doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym every day. Moderate exercise could be a brisk walk on your lunch break, a light bike ride or even those slightly more exerting cleaning duties, such as vacuuming, window cleaning or mopping the floor.