For the past few years, I've made it a habit to get up out of my chair and go for a little walk. I'm not exactly doing it for exercise; I'm mostly doing it to clear my mind and get the oxygen flowing to my brain. I find that when I return to my desk, I feel refreshed and more clear-headed than before. But, recent research has me wondering if I'm doing enough.
According to 2010 research published in the journal Circulation, sitting down for just an additional hour every day may increase your risk of dying over a six-year period by 11 percent. This study tracked nearly 9 thousand Australians and found that other risk factors (including age, sex, education and smoking), did not significantly alter the risk factors of sitting for that extra hour. An American Society for Nutrition study was released this year with similar findings.
Another 2010 study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that men who sat for six hours daily had a had a 20 percent higher death rate over a 14-year period than those who sat for three hours or less per day. Women who sat for at least six hours were found to be 40 percent more likely die during the study.
"Sitting is a lethal activity," Dr. James Levine, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told the New York Times in 2011.
You might think that an hour of exercise after eight hours at your desk might make up for all of that sitting, but to be truly healthy, you should try not to sit for such long stretches. Excessive sitting causes posture problems, reduces insulin function and increases the risk of obesity.
So, here are some tips for sitting a little less during the day:
- Instead of sending an email or picking up the phone, get up out of your chair to ask your coworker that pressing question.
- Make a coffee (or water) date with a coworker at a set time each day. Or, instead of sitting down with your cup of Joe, take a few laps around the office.
- Set an alarm at your computer for around 3 p.m., and when it goes off, get up and go for a walk. Don't allow any excuses for missing your walk (unless, of course, you're in the middle of a performance review or presentation).
- Never take the elevator when you can take the stairs. It may take a little more time, but that's time that your body is working, instead of just sitting there doing nothing.
- Plan more active things to do than watching television after work. If it's a nice day, take a walk. You can also plan a fun family activity, such as bowling or min-golf. It'll be a great bonding experience that will get you all out of your chairs for at least an hour.
Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!