The Uncomfortable Truth About Sitting

Are you sitting down? Well you might want to take a stand. Sitting kills – that’s the message currently circulating among health professionals as the true impact of sedentary living begins to make itself known.

Described as “the new smoking”, sitting for extended periods of time has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even premature death. And its association with Australia’s current obesity crisis is undeniable.

Sitting burns 50 less calories per hour when compared with standing (that’s 400 across the standard work day), slows down the metabolism and decreases the activity levels of the body’s fat burning enzymes. And, when it comes to mental ill health, you guessed it, sitting plays a part. Numerous studies have shown that spending more than six hours a day seated heightens a person’s chances of developing depression and contributes to their state of psychological distress.

If this information has you squirming in your seat, know that there’s no need to fret as it is possible to curb the effects of sitting at work.

Here’s how to start:

  • Get Moving: Limiting the impact of sitting doesn’t have to be complicated. Build more activity into your day by taking the stairs over the lift, getting off the bus a stop further from the office or walking over to colleagues instead of communicating by email. Set yourself a challenge of reaching 10,000 steps a day. Track your progress using an app, Fitbit or pedometer.

  • Take Breaks: Research from the US suggests that taking a five minute walk every hour can alleviate the negative impact of desk work. In order to achieve the desired result activity must be scheduled for regular intervals, so rather than substituting your breaks for a long walk at the end of the day set yourself hourly movement reminders. Doing so could benefit your career as well as your health as breaks increase focus, boost productivity and encourage creative thinking.

  • Sit Right: Because your day is likely to involve at least some sitting, try to ensure that the way you sit limits the potential for damage. Adjust your seat so that your feet are flat on the floor and your back is fully supported, place your keyboard directly in front of your body and raise your screen to eye level. Place documents between your keyboard and screen and assess your posture regularly.

  • Stretch It Out: The side effects of sitting present themselves in many ways, but few are as obvious as neck and back pain. Stretching is a great way to counteract the results of being slumped over a desk. Pin a deskercise guide to your cubicle wall for accessible inspiration or, better still, try attending yoga during your lunch-break for increased flexibility with an added dose of calm.

  • Approach Your Boss: If you’re feeling the effects of sitting all day, it’s likely your colleagues are too. Talk to your boss about trialling some sit-stand workstations or active desk chairs. See if walking meetings could become part of your office’s routine or if a lunchtime running club would be of interest.

When approaching your managers about the impact of sitting, go armed with the relevant information. Explain how increasing activity positively influences productivity, reduces staff turnover and leads to a more resilient workforce. Reinforcing your request in this way will help guarantee your message is heard.