How Sitting Is the New Smoking
There’s no sugar-coating it: North Americans sit a lot. Two-thirds of the North American workforce sits for all or part of their workday.1 When you don’t adjust your posture frequently enough, you’re more likely to experience discomfort while sitting—and you’re inviting a whole host of other musculoskeletal problems along with it.1
Today, on average, sitting takes up more than half of an adult’s waking hours.2What’s worse is that, according to Mayo Clinic cardiologist Martha Grogan, “for people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.”3 Based on current trends, researchers predict the number of hours we spend sedentary will likely increase.2
There are other health risks that come from being more sedentary: prolonged time spent while sitting or reclining can tamper with your glucose levels and your metabolism.4 It’s also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.4 The good news is that if you break up those long periods of sitting, you can reduce your risk of having diabetes, heart disease, or stroke.4
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada5 recommends at least thirty minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity—such as brisk walking or bike riding—at least five days out of the week. If you work Monday to Friday, consider adding a few steps to your commute, or taking two 15 minute walk breaks each workday.
Here are some more helpful tips to help break up your sitting time6,7:
- Create a schedule to remind you to stand up and move. Programming your day can help you stick to something you may otherwise forget to do. A good goal is 5–10 minutes of activity per hour. For example, if you have a job that involves sitting most of the day, plan to spend five minutes every hour up from your chair and moving around the office (like getting coffee, walking around the building, or taking a restroom break) and spend the other five minutes doing stretches.
- Walk around on your lunch break. Invite coworkers from your office to go for a walk with you at lunch. You can check out a nearby park or take a new route around the neighbourhood.
- Park further away and walk. Whether you’re running errands or parking at work, you can choose to park further away and walk those extra few steps to your destination.
- Walk around the house while talking on the phone or during commercial breaks of your favourite show. You might find other opportunities throughout the day too!
Little changes can go a long way to improve your posture and decrease a number of health risks. Whatever method you choose, you can also use the Straighten Up Canada app and Fit-in 15 program to find small exercises you can do during the day.
- Fenety A, Walker JM. Short-term effects of workstation exercises on musculoskeletal discomfort and postural changes in seated video display unit workers. J Am Phys Ther Assoc. 2002; 82(6): 578-89.
- Healy GN, Eakin EG, Owen N, et al. A cluster randomized controlled trial to reduce office workers’ sitting time. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016; 48(9): 1787-97. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000972.
- Winslow, R. The guide to beating a heart attack: first line defense is lowering risk, even when genetics isn’t on your side. The Wall Street Journal. April 16, 2012. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304818404577347982400815676. Accessed November 25, 2016.
- Benatti FB, Ried-Larsen M. The effects of breaking up prolonged sitting time. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015; 47(10): 2053-61. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000654.
- Stay active. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. 2016. Available at: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/stay-active#How-much-activity-do-I-need. Accessed November 22, 2016.
- Storrs C. Stand up, sit less and move more, researchers say; here’s how to do it. CNN. August 6, 2015. Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/06/health/how-to-move-more/. Accessed October 14, 2016.
- Sit less. The Heart Foundation. Available at: https://heartfoundation.org.au/active-living/sit-less. Accessed October 14, 2016.