You have probably come across some of the recent headlines suggesting that sitting is just as bad for your health as smoking. I won’t go so far as to argue for or against such a claim. I’ll leave that up to the medical experts. However, those headlines warrant a closer look for anyone (like me) who sits for the majority of a typical workday. The information I found was more eye opening than it was shocking. I am all about sharing any eye opening information I happen upon. The following material looks at the risks of prolonged sitting and offers some practical tips on how to maintain good health while working a desk job.

It all started when The Los Angeles Times interviewed Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk. Dr. Levine has been studying the adverse effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles for years and has summed up his findings in two sentences:

 

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

So there you have it. Hyperbole or not, the picture is pretty clear – but not necessarily grim.

The web has been teeming with solutions in response to Dr. Levine’s comments. Here is a rundown of the most common ones:

Be mindful of what you put into your mouth. It can be easy to sit at your desk and snack throughout the day whether you’re actually hungry or not. Some of the best ways for combatting mindless snacking: chew gum, drink lots of water, and bring healthy snacks from home. Last but not least, stay away from the vending machines!

Be intentional with your movement. First and foremost, never sit for more than an hour without taking a break to stand and stretch. If possible, try taking a quick walk to the water cooler or a lap around the office (without being weird) to get your blood flowing and properly circulating throughout your body. Bottom line is the more you can stand up from your chair the better off you will be.

Be willing to move while seated. Believe it or not, there are dozens of ways to maintain blood flow and minimize health risks without getting up from your chair. Every 20-30 minutes try stretching your arms above your head, then some neck rolls, followed by stretching your legs out in front of you while pointing your toes toward the ground. Whatever and however you stretch while seated is up to you. Just remember to do it regularly for proper circulation.

Be well equipped. There are a number of devices and other equipment available to help alleviate some of the risks associated with long periods of sitting. Several manufacturers have produced a version of Dr. Levine’s treadmill desk. A standing desk or workstation is also an improvement over the traditional sitting desk. Less expensive and less intrusive gear is available if modifying your entire work area is not an option. For those who spend much of their workday on the phone, a headset could unchain you from your desk. Using an exercise ball for a chair can improve posture and blood flow.

If you have any questions or comments to add, I would love for you to join the conversation. Thank you.