During the workday, do you sit more than you move around? If so, you’re in good company. Thousands of American adults spend hours daily sitting behind a computer or doing paperwork at a desk. And, they take only a few short breaks during the day. Here are four things to know about why sitting vs. exercise and moving around increases your risk for health problems.
More sedentary jobs
In the past, people worked at jobs that kept them more physically active. Today, less than 20% of jobs require walking or moving around. The American Heart Association reports the number of sedentary jobs has increased by 83% in the past 70 years, making sitting vs. exercise and moving around a bigger issue for workers.
Sitting increases health risks
People who sit more than they stand or walk around during the day may experience more health problems. In particular, they are at increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or diseases affecting the kidney, lungs or liver.
Daily exercise alone may not help
Studies show that people who walk, run or bike several miles each day, but also sit for several hours daily, are at risk for health problems. Their physical activity outside of work does not completely counteract their sedentary desk job. They also need to be moving around during work hours.
Take breaks frequently
If you sit for long hours during the day, review these tips to improve your health:
- Get up and walk around during the day. For every 20 minutes sitting, stand for 8 minutes and move around for 2 minutes.
- Standing or walking around for even a minute or two reduces your risk for health problems.
- Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, studied the health habits of 5,600 women. They discovered that women who sat for hours without standing or moving around had a 52% higher risk for heart disease. In comparison, women who sat for the same number of hours overall, but took short breaks, had a lower risk.
- Track your steps. Wear a fitness monitor or use a smartphone app to count your steps each day. Health experts recommend setting a goal of 10,000 steps daily. If you’re getting only 3,000 steps, don’t give up. Make a list of simple activities and exercise you can do to double your steps, such as:
- Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator.
- Walk a document to another office vs. putting it in interoffice mail.
- At lunchtime, take a walk outside or around different floors in the building.
- Continue your regular exercise routine outside of work hours.