When serious news is about to be delivered, it’s often prefaced with, “why don’t you have a seat.” But recent research shows the seriously bad news has to do with sitting itself. While our early ancestors were on their feet and on the move all day long as hunter/gatherers and then farmers, today we are largely (literally!) a sedentary society. Globally, we spend an average of 7.7 hours a day on our duff. When not sitting at desks, most of us sit in cars to get to those desks where we sit in front of a screen the rest of the day, then we come home to sit on sofas, often in front of yet another screen.
Seems civilized, even relaxed, yes? Well, not exactly, at least if you want to live for very long, and live healthfully. What doctors have dubbed the “sitting disease” results in a slowed metabolic system, higher risk of cardiac disease and stroke, cancer, depression, obesity and diabetes, not to mention tight hips and hamstrings, back and shoulder pain, and increased likelihood of varicose veins. Too much sitting also takes a cognitive toll, as the brain needs fresh blood and oxygen for optimal performance. Seems about the only thing sitting may be good for is that 10-minute chair massage that always looks so enticing.
Yes, ironically, I’m sitting at a desk as I write this post. And you’re most likely sitting at a desk as you read it, yes? But here are a few ways we can break our chair habit and take a stand for better health.
- Invest in a standing desk. They’re not as expensive as you might think, and certainly less expensive than having to take high blood pressure medication or lose work/productivity time to doctors visits. Alternatively, use an exercise ball as a chair.
- Make “rounds” more often. Get up and go ask a colleague a question (how old fashioned!) rather than send an email a few doors/cubicles down. Take a lap around the office every hour, say hello, spread cheer while getting your blood flowing.
- Don’t work during lunch! Go for a walk outside, even 10 minutes at a brisk pace will do your body and mind a world of good.
- Try biking or walking to work or for errands. Most of our car trips are less than 2 miles— a short bike ride, especially here where it’s flat.
If you need more help fighting “sitting disease,” the new Roper St. Francis Healthy Lifestyle Program at RSF Mount Pleasant Hospital, under the guidance of cardiologist Dr. John Ciccone with Mount Pleasant Cardiology, offers exercise programs, nutritional counseling, support and education to help break sedentary habits and prevent heart disease and associated health concerns. Call Healthy Lifestyle Program navigator Amy Mendez at (843) 606-7890 to find out more.