Today, most of us spend a lot of our time in a seated position. We sit in our cars, on public transit, at work, during meals, while watching TV, while using the computer, while reading books and while playing games. Unfortunately, all of this sitting is putting our health at risk. Sitting for long periods of time is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses. While many of us try to compensate for our highly sedentary lifestyles by working out periodically, a recent study from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, suggest that even 30-60 minutes of daily exercise isn’t enough to offset the risks associated with all this sitting. While further research is needed to determine just how much physical activity is needed, there are some simple things you can do today to cut down the amount of time you spend sitting down.
- TRACK YOUR TIME: The first step to reducing the amount of time you spend sitting is knowing how much time you’re actually spending in a seated position. Start by spending a week recording when and for how long you’re sitting each day. Then, review your numbers at the end of the week. While this might seems strange, the fact is that seeing the number written down in front of your is often a great way to motivate yourself to make changes. It also gives you a baseline number that you can use to measure your improvement.
- TAKE BREAKS: If you find that you’re sitting for long periods of time, one solution is to simply take breaks. Set a reminder for yourself get up every 45-60 minutes, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and walk around or stretch. While it may not seem like much, doing this throughout your day can make a difference.
- STAND WHEN POSSIBLE: Many of the activities we do from a seated position can easily be done while standing. Watching TV, using the computer, reading and even conducting meetings are all examples of things that can be done while standing.
- ADD EXTRA ACTIVITY: In addition to reducing the amount of time you spend spending sitting, try increasing your overall level of activity by making a few tweaks to the things you’re already doing now. For example, instead of driving to work, walk or bike if possible. When driving somewhere, try parking a little farther away and walking. If you take public transit, get off a stop or two earlier and walk to your destination. When at work, rather than taking the elevator, try taking the stairs. Or, during lunchtime, save some time for a quick walk. You could also consider making an after dinner walk part of your regular routine.
There’s no denying that most of us spend a high percentage of our time sitting down and that this poses a significant risk to our long-term health. Even though it now seems that just doing 30-60 minutes of exercise may not be enough, the good news is that simple changes to our daily routine can help. While each of these changes may seem insignificant, it’s important to remember that small changes, when taken together, can add up to a big difference.