When you look for tips on how to improve your health, one nugget of wisdom that always pops up is to stay active. But, did you know that staying still—specifically, sitting—can actually be bad for your health?
Health Risks of Sitting
According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that excessive sitting is linked to a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and increased cholesterol levels). Sitting too much also appears to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
It should be noted that this sitting includes not just free time in front of the television, but any time during the day that you sit, whether that’s at the desk for hours on end at work or at the wheel during your commute. On top of that, the risk incurred by all those hours of sitting can’t be offset by one day of moderate or vigorous activity, even if it’s a few hours at the gym.
Lowering Your Risk
So what can you do to reduce these health risks? Simply try to sit less and move more. This doesn’t mean that you constantly have to be on the move. Rather, take breaks from sitting every 30 minutes or so. Though more research is needed to set specific guidelines, a good rule of thumb to follow is to move around for about five minutes for every 30 minutes that you are sedentary. Get up to stretch your legs or get some coffee. Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch. Walk rounds with colleagues instead of gathering in a conference room for meetings. There’s not enough evidence currently to suggest that standing while you work (such as at a standing desk) is any better than sitting, so it’s best to find a way to move around for short periods of time.