man standing at adjustable-height desk

There’s nothing like a catchy slogan to succinctly convey a complex concept, and “Sitting is the New Smoking” has done just that. More meaningful than the original “<Blank> is the New Black”, it’s become evident over years of research that the ease of information creation and flow brought about by technology has come at a cost to our overall health.

Prolonged sitting has been associated with pronounced increases in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Further, early research is showing that even regular exercise does little to counteract the effects of too many hours spent in a chair.

The good news is that there are many ways to make big changes in the amount of time you spend sitting each day, both at work and after hours, leading not only to reducing your health risk, but gaining improvements in creativity, focus, and energy.

Try one or more of the following at work.

  • Substitute one “walk-and-talk meeting” for a standard meeting each week. For maximum overall health benefit you can hold your meeting in a local park, but anywhere outside will do, and even the hallways of your office building will be a big improvement over another meeting in the conference room.
  • While it may be impractical to work standing all day, utilize the mobility of laptops, tablets, and smart phones to create more than one location to get your computer work done. Standing or ‘perching’ work areas can be set up in a large office environment or even in a home office to provide a variety of work positions. Some offices have even provided treadmill desks.
  • Many new products have become available recently to inexpensively (or expensively if you have the budget) elevate your laptop, monitor, keyboard, and pointing device to a standing work height. I find that when I work standing I move around a lot, helping tight muscles regularly stretch and relax.
  • Take mini breaks throughout the day. This can be as simple as occasionally looking at an object further away to help relax your eyes to taking a walk around the building or doing a few calisthenics. Try setting your computer’s clock to audibly announce on the hour as a reminder to get up, look away, stretch, walk, do a quick exercise, change your work position, or just move around in your seat. It’s recommended that you take a 5- to 15-minute break each hour, but any amount of time will help and add up over the day.

You can also reduce your sitting time and health risks by modifying how you spend your after hours time. Try limiting television, video game, and recreational computer use to one hour per day after work, and plan to replace at least an hour of this time with something active such as walking, completing a chore, or trying out a new hobby.

You can gradually transition to increasing your standing and moving time, allowing your body to adapt to the increased physical demands. Try to ultimately work towards reducing sitting to half of your workday and half of your non-work time, and note any changes in how you feel.

Let’s make Standing the New Sitting!

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Copyright © 2016 Mary A. Williams, Corporate Health Alliance/BACKCoach. All rights reserved. This article was originally published in the October, 2016, issue of Healthy Cells Magazine.