Sitting is the new smoking
Sitting is the new smoking. A bold statement, I know, but sitting for long periods of time is just as dangerous as smoking. You may question how? I’m not putting toxic substances in my body so what’s the issue? Just like you, I thought the same.
Since attending the latest Women In Tech evening and listening to Dr Adigo Atabo’s talk, my perspective on sitting for long periods of time has changed. I became more aware of the amount of time I spend sitting down on a day to day basis, which had become a cause for concern and something I wanted/ needed to change in order to benefit my health.
As a nation, generally, sedentary behaviour is higher than ever before, since most of us work in an office, travel to work in a vehicle and spend our leisure time sitting down as we watch TV, scroll through social media, read books and game. Sedentary behaviour can be defined as any behaviour that occurs when you are either sitting or lying down while awake, requiring little to no energy. Some of us are forced to sit for numerous hours a day as we work from desks, but simultaneously in our leisure time most of us are still opting to sit whenever we can. These daily choices we make are negatively affecting our bodies.
The effects sedentary behaviour has on the body
Dr Adigo Atabo enlightened me to a range of different ways that sitting can affect the body negatively, both physically and mentally.
Did you know that sedentary behaviour can cause all of these things?
- Anxiety and depression
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cancer – sedentary behaviour increases the chance of getting breast and colon cancer by 13%
- You are two times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- Reduced functional capacity
- Drop in blood pressure
- Metabolism lowers
- Muscles relax and hip flexors shorten
- Glutes deactivate and abs shorten
- Thromboembolic stroke
- Your chance of dying younger is increased by 17%
System imbalances in the body
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
- Alzheimer’s disease and depression are linked to sedentary behaviour
- Oestrogen levels increase in women, which can be linked to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and breast cancer
- Testerone levels drop in men, which can be linked to erectile dysfunction
- Inflammation in the body increases, which leads you to be more susceptible to infections
- Vitamin D levels decline – unless you are sat outside working
You may be thinking – yes, I do spend the majority of my time sitting when I am at work, but outside of work I am a very active individual, I go to the gym, walk to and from work, run around after my children… I can’t be affected by sedentary behaviour. I hate to tell you this, but no matter how active you are outside of work, nothing can counteract the long durations of time that you spend sitting. I found this statement shocking and was left wondering what we can do to improve this situation.
How can office workers minimise the risks of sedentary behaviour?
Just like most, I work in an office and it’s almost avoidable not be seated for 7+ hours a day. So how do us office workers minimise the risks of sedentary behaviour? Dr Adigo Atabo provided some useful tips and tricks that she encourages all of us to participate in at work:
- Swap office chairs to exercise sitting ball – which help to increase movement when sitting
- Perform desk exercises every hour, here are a few you can do:
- Knee pull ups
- Oblique pull ups
- Floor reaches
- Raise the roof
- Get moving during your breaks – on average, only 2/8 of people go for a walk on their break. Why not make a conscious effort to leave your desk at lunchtime, no matter how busy you are?
- Incorporate standing desks into your workplace, where you can work standing instead of sitting
- When taking phone calls, stand up and walk around the office
- Hold competitions in the office and make it fun – i.e introduce a tally of how many steps people walk a day, with an incentivised prize for the winner at the end of each month
With a little focus and dedication, we can all make a difference and try implementing some of these suggestions in our workplace. Dr Adigo Atabo’s ‘Sitting is the New Smoking’ talk has really convinced us all at Clicky to get moving – we’ve set up a running club and Clicky FC recently won the Goals Chester league – and we’re looking to introduce more incentives to encourage activity throughout the day – watch this space!