Are you concerned that your office job means that you do little else but sit on you bottom all day? Worried that your occasional stint from your desk to the photocopier may not be enough to keep you healthy?
Well, you could be right.
According to recent research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, you should be concerned about sitting down for long periods of time.
The study, which compared the activity levels (how long individuals remained seated for) and comparative chronic disease rates of over 63,000 Australian men, claims that sitting for long periods of time is directly related to a greater risk of chronic health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
The turning point, according to the study, was at the four-hour mark. The results showed that men who sat down for over four hours a day drastically increased their risk of chronic disease. Whereas, those that sat down for fewer than four hours experienced no significant difference.
Worryingly, men who sat down for longer than six hours were classified as being at a ‘high risk’ of diabetes. In fact, researchers reveal that there is a ‘stair case’ effect, where the more you sit, the more likely you are to experience chronic diseases.
Previously it was believed that as long as you fit in your regular daily exercise of at least 30 minutes, you were safe. This study is one of the first to indicate that this is actually not the case – that regular physical activity has no impact on reducing the risk of chronic disease if you spend a large component of your day sitting down.
Researchers suggest that if you want to decrease your risk of chronic diseases, you need to find alternatives to working in a seated position all day.
But for many office workers, this may seem like an impossible request. The amount of time we spend on computers has dramatically increased in recent years, to the point where some occupations purely involve computer use for at least eight hours of the day. So, how are you meant to sit down for less than four?
Well, you could start with your trip to work. Why not park a little further away, if you drive to work? Or you can get off a stop earlier if you take public transportation. This decreases the amount of time you spend sitting in a car, bus or train and boosts your physical activity.
And throughout the day, why not give some of these ideas a try:
- Use your stress ball for more than an anxious squeeze every now and then. Stress balls can be a great tool to build up your arm and hand strength as well as flexibility. Best of all, you can use them whenever you like; on trains or buses, during meetings and even while you’re on the phone. They are great for quick breaks and very useful for individuals who type a lot.
- Invest in a stability ball (the big round, inflatable balls used for stretching and core exercise) and switch it with your desk chair. You can either do this in one go (i.e. permanently replace your desk chair), or take it in turns in using the ball whenever you feel like you need to get some extra leg and core work in.
- Okay, so it might look a little silly, but this one is guaranteed to get your heart racing and your biceps burning: desk push-ups. Every hour or so, take a break to pump out some desk push-ups. All you have to do is stand facing your desk and then with your hands shoulder width apart, lower yourself down.
- If you like the idea of strength training at work, why not slip in some wall push-ups, squats and lunges too? You can even add in some light stretching!
- Ensure that you get up and move at least every hour. Go for a walk outside, have a coffee or just do a few laps of the office. Taking regular breaks will also help you decrease that ‘sitting’ time.
- You can even have trial a ‘standing meeting’, instead of just sitting down in a boardroom, or take a few phone calls standing up.
And remember, we’re not designed to sit down for long periods of time. So if you start feeling grumpy, anxious or fidgety, it could be time for a brief break. Listen to your body and pay attention to how much better you feel after you insert short breaks into your day.