Is it possible that sitting all day creates a whole host of health issues? Likely. Can you do something about it? Yes. Will you? Maybe. No matter what the latest science might say, moving more is good for you, and we probably need to ditch the chair (at least a little bit) more often than we do. Here are some tips to get you away from maybe/probably and closer to a healthier you.
(Photo Credit: bark/Flickr)
Why You Should Walk More (the Bad)
It’s hard to find anything “definitive” about the dangers of sitting to your health, especially when the latest research always seems to contradict previously held theories. For example, a 2014 article from WebMD noted that sitting for long periods of time (like what many of us do at work every day) has been linked to high blood pressure, obesity, bad cholesterol, and too much belly fat.
Another piece published just this week on WebMD talks about a new study, which said “hey it’s not so bad after all” — with the subtle caveat that “results may be due in part to higher-than-average daily activity in this particular group of people, though.” Even in this latest study, it’s noted by lead researcher Richard Pulsford that “encouraging people to be more active should still be a public health priority.” So it’s still pretty likely that we all need to move more and to avoid sitting for long stretches.
Why You Should Walk More (the Good)
Walking helps us discover new ideas, so says a New Yorker article from last year. Not only were plenty of famous creatives also known for their frequent rambles (think William Wordsworth, Beethoven, and Charles Dickens just to name a few), but they often saw it as a natural part of their daily schedule.
The American Heart Association notes that walking briskly (think a good, heart-pumping pace) “can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes as much as running.” And it’s not about carving out time to go to the gym every few days, it’s about making choices that get your butt up from the seat you’re probably in while reading this. A recent study from the University of Missouri found that even short walks during your regular workday can reverse vascular dysfunction.
James Levine, inventor of the treadmill desk, author, and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, told NPR recently “…something you do at the end of the day for one hour, three evenings a week, doesn’t actually offset the harm for what you do 15 hours a day, seven days a week: sit.”
Get Some Tech Help…
I, for one, welcome our movement-encouraging robot overlords. Devices like the Garmin vivofit, Jawbone UP/UP 24, Nike+ FuelBand SE, and Apple Watch (among others) all let you set reminders to get up and move more often. Whether you want a five-minute break every hour or need goals to meet every day like walking homework, you can find some technology that can give you a regular nudge.
…Or Do It For Free
But you don’t even have to invest money in this new way of life, that is, an away-from-your-chair life. You can choose to take phone calls standing up, pacing around your office while you chat on speaker phone or headset. Make some family walking time mandatory after dinner instead of watching TV. You can stand on the commuter train instead of sitting. Take those hourly breaks and walk around your office for five minutes, or choose the stairs to change floors instead of the elevator.
Levine noted that we just have to commit to a new way of not-sitting-all-the-time thinking to see big changes in our overall health and well being: “I guarantee that if you get up and move more than you do, if you escape the chair sentence, you will be happier for it in some way.”
Tell Us What You Think
How do you make time to walk around? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.