Eight ways to counteract the effects of sitting all day

Aug 10, 2017

You may have heard the commercials or read research reports that say sitting is the new smoking. What healthcare professionals do know is that both can be very bad for your health.  

Brittany Hartl

Sitting for too long, such as at work for eight hours paired with a sedentary lifestyle, can be a risk factor in determining how healthy an individual is, says Brittany Hartl, wellness center coordinator and exercise physiologist with St. Joseph’s/Candler. By sitting too long your body is not required to burn fat, burn excess glucose in the bloodstream or strengthen muscles.

Living a sedentary lifestyle also can lead to high blood pressure, excess weight and increased cholesterol levels and is a secondary risk factor that increases your chances of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

“In general, an inactive lifestyle leads to decreased energy and weakened muscles and cardiovascular system,” Hartl adds. “And overall, it also can be bad for mental health.”

Metabolic syndrome is one area of concern inactive people of any size should be concerned about. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and includes high blood pressure – even in people who are slim or average weight – high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.

The World Health Organization states 3.2 million deaths worldwide are the result of inactivity, especially in the developed world. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control targets the prolonged sitting time of individuals living in developed countries as the prime cause behind metabolic syndrome.

Prevention and early intervention are strongly recommended to avoid developing metabolic syndrome and other health risk factors. Hartl offers these eight ways to counteract the effects of sitting all day:

  1. If you are required to be at a desk all day, set a timer. Every 30 minutes get up from your desk and take a brisk walk, stretch your back or complete a task in your office that can be done standing.
  2. Take phone calls standing up. You may be able to find a desk that can be raised, allowing you to complete computer work while standing.
  3. During your lunch break, take a brisk 10 to 15 minute walk before your eat.
  4. Go the gym before or after you work. It is equally important to make sure you are moving throughout the day, Hartl says, but getting to the gym to specifically workout will be extremely beneficial in helping to counteract the effects of being at a desk all day.
  5. Adopt an active commute to work, such as walking or biking. If that’s not possible, try to park as far away from your building as possible and always take the stairs.
  6. Start an exercise group or fitness challenge with your co-workers.
  7. Invest in a step tracker to monitor your day-to-day fitness.
  8. Watch your posture. Sitting all day can lead to back pain, headaches and sore hips and legs. You can do postural exercises such as sitting upright in a chair and rolling your shoulders back and down or stretching your neck and shoulder muscles to reduce tension. Also, make sure your feet are properly supported with your hips and knees being at the same height while sitting to keep you in a good position, which reduces stress on your back and hips.

Want more exercises you can do right in your office? Check out: No gym required. Exercises you can do at the office or home and Three more exercises you can do at home or the office.

If you’d like help starting or maintaining a before or after work fitness regime, call the Wellness Center at St. Joseph’s/Candler at 912-819-8800. Personal trainers are available.  

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