We can’t out train the damage caused by sitting in our office chair all day. Emerging evidence now suggests that an hour gym session after work may not be enough to counteract the health risks of being sedentary
In the UK, we spend an astonishing 9.5 hours a day sat down with that figure increasing on retirement to 10+ hours per day.
We all know and appreciate that movement is good for us but where did this all start?
A quick down memory lane to one of the first ever pieces of research which was conducted on bus drivers in London back in 1953 by Morris et al. It was shown that bus conductors compared with bus drivers experienced less coronary heart disease and death. It was the first big piece of research pointing towards sedentary behavior as a direct risk factor for adverse health outcomes.
Over the years there have been numerous studies showing that physical activity reduces the risk of dying, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, obesity and heart conditions but why is it that so many of us still remain sedentary? Whilst it was initially thought these diseases arose from the fact people were more likely to be obese evidence now shows that even if you are not overweight but sedentary you are still at greater risk.
The term is used to describe any group of activities that occur whilst sitting down or lying and usually require low energy expenditure. Examples include: sitting at work, lying on the sofa watching TV, reading, siting on the bus or public transport.
Activities excluded include: sleeping, pushing yourself in a wheel chair and chair-based exercises.
When looking to stay active and reducing the length of time we sit there are two important considerations.
- The total length of time we sit
- How to break up sitting
Standing up for your health
The concept of a standing desk whilst it may not be for everyone it does address the points above. It’s important to realise that no one is saying you shouldn’t ever sit down but it’s about ensuring an optimal balance and breaking up prolonged periods of sitting. With a boom in the sale of standing desks and employers becoming ever more health conscious why not ask your HR Manager for your very own standing desk.
For more info check out the British Heart Foundation (BHF) briefing on sedentary behavior.