Sitting is the most underrated health threat of our times and has been unmasked as a major risk factor for early death and chronic disease. "But wait," you protest, "I may sit all day at work, but I exercise three times a week." The bad news is that exercise is not an antidote for sitting; it doesn't negate the risk. Our lives are one big sit-fest - for work we sit in our cars or commute on the bus, we sit at our computers, in meetings and on conference calls. Even socialising usually means sitting with friends for coffee or a beer.
The good news? There are simple and innovative ways to avert the deadly effects of sitting. Here are seven of the best approaches:
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1. Interrupt your day
Break up prolonged sitting times with short bursts of activity. Use the stairs on entering or leaving the office and every time you need to go to a meeting. Take a brisk walk during your lunch break or at least eat lunch away from your desk.
2. Take frequent stretch breaks
Get up from your desk and stretch your muscles every thirty to sixty minutes. This provides an opportunity to take a breath and push your 'pause' button for a few moments. Moreover it is a highly effective way to stimulate your muscle and nerve function. This increases the flow of blood throughout your body and brain, thus clearing waste products, glucose and fat from your bloodstream.
3.Walk much more
Walking increases your blood circulation, metabolic rate and fat burning by more than 100 per cent, and taking the stairs increases this by at least 200 per cent. Break up your day into 30-minute blocks of sitting and set an alarm to remind you to get up.
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4. Change your workspace configuration
Although an increasingly popular approach to excessive sitting is to switch to a standing desk, it's quite a radical change for most people. An attachment to your existing desk that allows you to stand intermittently is probably more suitable. Even more dramatic and much more expensive are treadmill desks (which may become more accessible and affordable in the near future). In the meantime, utilising an exercise ball for part of the day is an effective way to use more leg and core muscles and burn off extra calories.
5. Stand more often
You can go through your emails, and complete routine tasks whilst standing. "Its not all about having funky equipment," explains Gavin Bradley of the Get Australia Standing campaign. "A lot of it is about culture within an organisation. [Saying] that it's ok to stand when on the phone or to have a standing area where people can use their laptops away from their sitting desk". Standing increases your energy levels but simply swapping sitting for standing is not the only answer, as static standing has its own problems such as exacerbating back pain.
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6. Try walk-and-talk meetings
It does sound strange at first, but the walking meeting is growing in popularity. It's obviously not recommended for formal meetings or with new clients, but there is no reason why you cannot try this out for less formal interactions. Schedule a 'walk and talk' session to explore an idea with a colleague instead of conversing via phone, email or in a cubicle.
7. Go for a massage
A growing body of research suggests that a good massage is even better for you than you think. In addition to reducing your stress hormones, enhancing your sleep and boosting your immune system, it is tremendously effective in improving circulation. Through the stimulation of your skin and deep tissues and especially the large limb muscles, total body blood circulation is markedly enhanced.
Dr. Linda Friedland is an authority on executive and corporate health, women's wellbeing as well as stress management and performance. She is a medical doctor, bestselling author of five books and sought after international speaker. For more information, visit lindafriedland.com.