On average we spend 8.9 hours sitting down every day and when you add in the seven hours a night we spend sleeping – it’s easy to see how most of us are spending just one third of our time on our feet.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle has enormous health implications. The World Health Organisation has identified physical inactivity as a real risk to modern health.
Prolonged hours of inactivity can have a dramatic impact on your health, leading to increased risk of conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, to name just a few. Regular movement can have positive effects on the body and mind, helping to reduce those risks.
Regular movement can have positive effects on the body and mind.
Limits of exercise
It’s recommended you should do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity exercise a week, or 30 minutes on at least five days. Moderate intensity activities are those where your breathing rate increases and you start to feel warmer. This can include everyday movement such as walking, cycling to work, housework, gardening or activity you carry out while at work. That is enough to gain the main benefits of regular exercise. However, it won’t protect you from the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle if you spend too long sitting each day.
What happens when you are sedentary?
When you sit for too long, this slows down your body’s metabolism and the way enzymes break down your fat reserves. While this is happening, your blood glucose levels and blood pressure will increase. This can steadily damage the inside of your arteries, raising the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Small amounts of regular activity, even as simple as standing and moving around throughout the day, is enough to bring those increased levels back down. What’s great is these small amounts of activity all add up to make a really positive difference. Scientists have suggested that 30 minutes of light activity in two or three minute bursts could be just as effective as a half hour block of exercise.
Being up on your feet a little more can also prevent and alleviate back pain problems. These are commonly caused by spending too much time sitting or as a result of having poor posture.
Spending less time sitting down is a giant step towards cutting your risk of developing a number of serious health conditions. Take a look at how these activity suggestions can help:
Standing – standing up can burn more than 50 extra calories in an hour. Standing desks are beginning to grow in popularity and it’s easy to see why. If you stand for three hours a day, five days a week, that adds up to 750 calories. Over 12 months, you would burn an extra 39,000 extra calories or 8lb of fat – that’s the equivalent of running 10 marathons a year!
Walk to work – why not build in a short walk to and from work while the days are warmer and longer? If you have further to travel, try getting off the tube, bus or train a stop or two earlier to add in some walking time. You’ll also have the added benefit of topping up your vitamin D levels when you’re out and about in the sunshine.
Park your car further away – this small change can squeeze in some extra walking time without you even noticing.
Use the stairs – whenever you can, opt for the stairs over a lift or escalators. This will help to chalk up plenty of short and effective activity bursts throughout your day.
Be active at lunchtime – if you’re prone to eating lunch at your desk and doing very little at break time, you’re not alone. Some research suggests that over half of us most of our working day being inactive – staying in the same place or position. Use your lunch break to get some fresh air and stretch your legs. Make it a brisk walk and this will also help to perk you up and increase your concentration when you return to work.
Set a timer – if you’re prone to losing track of time when you’re sitting down, setting a timer to prompt you to get up and move every hour can be very beneficial. Set an alarm or download an app that can remind you when it’s time to take five such as BreakTime.
Make a stand!
The key thing to remember is that you shouldn’t think of it as “having to exercise…” Really, it’s just a case of taking a moment to “not sit” – as soon as you get out of that sedentary position, you’re already doing something good for yourself!