What you should know about prolonged sitting.
I’ve been working almost exclusively online and remotely from home for over a year. Most people would call this living the dream.
For the most part, I would agree with that statement. I get to set my own hours and do work that I truly love from the comfort of my own home. While my job is unlike the traditional 9–5 workplace setting in many ways, it’s also quite similar in others.
I sit at my desk and work on my computer for hours, just like the majority of the American population with desk jobs. I work on my vegan recipe blog, type out listings for my online shops, and edit YouTube videos, food photos, and Instagram posts for hours at a time. None of these things require movement of any kind, and this is precisely where one of the deepest issues lies.
You see, study after study has revealed a strong correlation between long periods of sitting and lifespan decline. Yet, in today’s society, it’s near impossible to get away from, as most peoples' jobs require little to no manual labor.
In fact, there has been an 83% increase in sedentary jobs since 1950.
The majority of work performed today involves no manual labor. You clock in at 8 or 9 AM, sit quietly at your desk for eight hours, clock out, and repeat. In doing so, your health takes a major hit.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to avoid the negative impacts of long periods of sitting. Here’s what you should know, as well as some tips to help you maintain your health and longevity.
You should never sit for this long.
Evidence suggests that prolonged sedentary behavior increases your risk of a number of health issues as well as early death.
The prolonged sedentary behavior referenced is defined as six or more hours, so you should avoid staying sedentary for six hours continuously at all times.
This may seem like a piece of cake to some, but if you work a traditional 9–5 desk job five days per week, it might not be so easy. If left unaddressed, it could lead to the following health issues.
You’ll increase your risk of diabetes.
When you consistently sit for prolonged periods of time, your risk of developing diabetes drastically increases.
In fact, one study found that after putting 20 healthy subjects on bed rest for just five days, they experienced a 67 percent increase in the insulin response to glucose loading, which correlates to higher insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes).
In general, those who live a sedentary lifestyle and spend the majority of their work days at their desk have a 112 percent increased risk of diabetes.
A higher risk of diabetes is the first major effect of a sedentary job and lifestyle, but it’s actually not the most deadly.
You’ll boost your odds of death from heart disease.
While most people understand that factors like food and weight affect your risk of death from heart disease, many fail to grasp the impact of a sedentary lifestyle.
Research has shown a strong correlation between sedentary behavior and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
In fact, one study showed that men who reported greater than 23 hours per week of combined sedentary behavior has a 64 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who stayed sedentary less than 11 hours per week.
Now, 23 hours might seem like a substantial amount of time. However, when you have a traditional 9–5 desk job, you could easily spend 35 hours per week sedentary. Unfortunately, this lifestyle could have severe impacts on your health.
Here’s what you can do about it.
The evidence is clear that periods of prolonged sitting can wreak havoc on your health. Luckily, there are a few tricks which can help you escape the sedentary lifestyle, even if you have a traditional desk job.
The goal is to aim to accumulate two to four hours total each day of light activity at work. This can be done through
First, this can be done through alternated seated and standing-based work. In order to accomplish this, you can either use a sit-stand desk, or take short active standing breaks or light walks.
Second, even if you are forced to sit most of the time at work, you can practice small movements, such as fidgeting. Interestingly, a study led by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom noticed that small movements could potentially counteract some of the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
Finally, you could take a short break (about five minutes every hour or two) to go for a light walk. Now, this option might not be acceptable at all workplace settings, and in that case, you would have to utilize the previous two tips.
However, if you are able to, go for a quick walk around the office every hour or two. You can do a few laps outside to get your body moving and avoid prolonged sitting.
This is the strategy I use myself since I work from home. When it’s extremely cold, I walk laps inside my house rather than outside. I walk for five minutes every couple hours, and then get back to work. I actually find that I feel mentally refreshed, and accomplish far more work when using this strategy, which is just an added bonus on top of the health benefits.
If you often sit for long periods of time at your desk, you will likely want to add a few short breaks to your work day.
When I began working from home over a year ago, I thought that breaks would make me less productive, and only slow me down from reaching my goals. However, I quickly realized that my work wasn’t worth sacrificing my health, and neither is yours.
A few laps around the office here and there is all you need to free yourself from staying sedentary for hours and ultimately, boost your health.