We all know that sitting at a desk all day is not exactly the best thing for our bodies, but a recent New York Times Magazine article posits that not only is it bad, it could be lethal.
James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, has been studying the effects of sitting and says that it can lead to earlier death — up to 20 percent, according to his and others' research.
Why is being sedentary so bad? As soon as we sit, Levine says, our muscle activity, insulin effectiveness, and good (HDL) cholesterol levels fall, and our calorie-burning rate drops to a third of what it is when we walk. All of this also increases our risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and becoming obese. Sitting is so bad for you, Levine says, that an otherwise active lifestyle can't combat the negative effects of sitting at the office for nine hours a day.
But since we can't all have a job that keeps us moving and in shape, the researcher suggests that we do little things — "non-exercise activities" — to combat the effects of excessive sitting when we can.
- Take more breaks. Of course, we know that walking is better than sitting all day, but trying to walk more is not just about the aerobic exercise. It's about movement; Levine's research, in fact, showed that patients given an extra 1,000 calories a day who walked and moved around more (but didn't do any actual exercise) gained little to no weight, while the ones who were more sedentary gained much more.
- Organize your desk. Every little movement matters, so the more time you spend making it a habit to move in your seat can translate to a beneficial change.
- Drink more water. You'll get up more for refills and bathroom breaks, which will cut into your sitting time.
- Stretch at your desk. Every little bit counts, even bending over to tie your shoe, so adding some office chair stretches to your daily routine will not only help you re-energize and destress, it's also great for adding to your movement count!